1993: Lyuben Berov – The Straw Man

Photo: archive

On December 30, 1992, President Zhelyu Zhelev’s economic advisor Professor Lyuben Berov became Bulgaria’ s new Prime Minister right after the fall of the cabinet headed by Premier Philip Dimitrov. Lyuben Berov was in charge of the country for two whole years. The new cabinet was formed by the Movement for Rights and Freedoms with the political support of the Bulgarian Socialist Party. Former Premier Andrey Lukanov was released from custody on the very same day as part of the deal between the political parties. Berov Cabinet was also known in public as The Multigroup Cabinet-named after the corporation which was tightly connected with the Russian interests and influence in Bulgaria. Two decades later many people believe that Berov Cabinet was the most unique cabinet in Bulgaria’s transition period from communism to democracy, because it was appointed with the mandate of the MRF, supported by the BSP and declared that it would fulfill the political program of The Union of Democratic Forces. However, the reality was much different. The new cabinet started to purge the personnel appointed by the previous government. Former President and Deputy Minister of Justice Petar Stoyanov was one of the people who were purged by the new government. The golden archives of the Bulgarian National Radio keep the program declaration of the cabinet presented by Premier Berov.

“The cabinet will follow the idea of succession in government in its future activity and will not make revision of the legislative basis of the reform which was already adopted. It will continue to cooperate with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, in order to secure the necessary credits for the country’s structural reform, stabilize the balance of payments and increase its currency reserves. Meanwhile, the cabinet will have new priorities linked with the necessity to shift to the structural phase of the reform. If the former cabinet was to a great extent a government of the restitution, our cabinet will be mainly a government of the future privatization, which will follow a clear and transparent programme.”

However, the government was carried out in full symbiosis between the interests of the leaders of the mandate-holder-The Movement for Rights and Freedoms and the Bulgarian Socialist Party which supported the cabinet. Premier Berov played the role of the Straw Man and was used as a screen during the fulfillment of corruption schemes. Berov got his nickname from the opposition parties due to his dependence on various economic groups. Almost all Ministers of the former Berov Cabinet participated in a series of plans aimed at robbing the country. For example in 1993 Deputy Premier Neicho Neev was arrested and accused of assisting given companies in petrol smuggling. Later the owners of these companied became local oligarchs. The authorities started to issue licenses to private banks founded with state money. It happened with the assistance of Andrey Lukanov and former Governor of the Bulgarian National Bank Todor Valchev. Organized crime flourished during that period due to the chaos in Bulgaria, the huge unemployment and the ineffective judiciary system. The country was torn by gangsters’ wars. The economic groups created by former athletes put their hands on the local industry, services and commerce. At the end of 1993 the Confederation of Large Bulgarian Industrialist, also known as G13, was established. It was used by the local business circles to interfere in the country’s politics.

Lyuben Berov became hostage to large Bulgarian oligarchs such as Ilia Pavlov and the Multigroup Company, which soon became an economic empire due to the protection of BSP and MRF. Its influence was so strong that it managed to govern the country with own people while Premier Berov was periodically sent to hospital where he was diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.

Thus, between 1992 and 1994 the mafia had its own country and cabinet- renowned German investigating journalist Jurgen Rot once said. It all happened with the support of the former State Security. Moreover, some key figures from Bulgaria’s cabinet and economic groups belonged to the State Security. The unwillingness and incapability of the state to oppose to the economic and organized crime resulted in the coalescence between the mafia structures and the government. The economic problems and the large-scale protests against poverty and corruption, however, forced the cabinet of Lyuben Berov to resign on September 2, 1994.

President Zhelyu Zhelev appointed new Parliamentary elections on December 18, 1994. Caretaker Premier Reneta Indzhova who prepared the country for these elections called the cabinet of Lyuben Berov the Multigroup Cabinet. However, this economic group which already became an empire continued to interfere in the country’s government for another decade until the murder of its President Ilia Pavlov on March 7, 2003.

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

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