by Stamen Manolov

Bulgaria and Qatar have little in common, except Bulgaria's strong desire to get some Arab cash for its depressed economy.

It was, however, completely ignored by Qatar's business community, as no Qatari entrepreneur bothered to even show up at a state-sponsored and much-trumpeted Bulgarian "business forum" there in March.

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who appears to be increasingly desperate to retain his image as an omniscient and omnipotent strongman, was furious – and reacted in his usual way, by putting the blame on someone else and instantly sacking some of his ministers.

That Health Minister Stefan Konstantinov's head rolled was not particularly surprising as this man, the third health minister in as many years, had spectacularly failed to introduce any of the much needed reforms in public health care, which was obvious for all to see.

However, the dismissal of Economy Minister Traycho Traykov, previously seen as one of Boyko Borisov's inner circle, prompted a few questions that most of the controlled domestic media rarely ask.

For one, neither the prime minister, nor his chief ally, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, produced any coherent explanation of why Traykov had to go. Evoking the public relations disaster that followed the very suspicious "suicide" of a murder suspect in Pernik (the so-called Miroslava case), Borisov maintained that Traykov had asked to leave for "personal reasons."

"Not true," Traykov responded. He has not yet disclosed why he was sacked, but has said he would make a statement once some important decisions about the future of the projected Belene Nuclear Power Plant were finalised.

The very fact that a cabinet minister dared to contradict his boss is in itself remarkable, in what is now increasingly perceived as a return to an autoritarian system of government in Bulgaria.

In this environment, the general public can only hazard a guess, but that Traykov keeps on mentioning "power engineering" indicates that strong Russian, and possibly Western, interests are at stake. Upon his return from the ill-fated expedition to Qatar, Traycho Traykov did not appear to have acquired a tan, even though the prime minister charged that the economic meeting had failed to attract any interest because Traykov had spent his time basking in the sun on a Gulf beach.


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