Georgi Parvanov

President-elect of the Republic of Bulgaria

(UPI, - 19/11/01; Reuters, BTA - 18/11/01; Bulgarian Socialist Party Website)

Georgi Parvanov was elected president of the Republic of Bulgaria on 18 November 2001. The leader of the Socialist party became the first former communist to win a presidential vote since the fall of communism in Bulgaria in the early 1990s. His pre-election campaign ran under the motto "I am on your side" and emphasised social issues. Support for Parvanov's candidacy was about double that his party got in the parliamentary elections five months earlier.

Born on 28 June 1957, Parvanov joined the Bulgarian Communist Party (BCP) in 1981. In 1989, the BCP dethroned its chairman, Todor Zhivkov, and about a year later changed its name to Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). First elected to a party post in 1991, Parvanov climbed steadily up the party hierarchy to eventually be elected BSP chairman in December 1996. He replaced Zhan Videnov, whose discredited government was ousted by month-long street protests. Less than two months later, disobeying a party ruling, Parvanov and the BSP's prime minister-nominee Nikolay Dobrev, returned a mandate to form a new government to prevent an escalating crisis.

The move ended the crisis and sent the BSP in opposition, but it won Parvanov popular respect, a reputation of a balanced politician and placed him among the most recognised representatives of the Bulgarian political class. A reformer, he has since focused his efforts on transforming the BSP into a European type of a social-democratic party.

During the 1999 air bombing campaign in Yugoslavia, Parvanov and his parliamentary group voted against a resolution allowing NATO access to Bulgaria's air space. A year later, the Socialist leader declared his party's support for Bulgaria's foreign policy goal to join the EU and NATO.

Following his election victory, Parvanov confirmed his commitment to work for the achievement of those goals. His belief is that Bulgaria should also revive its relations with traditional partners in the past like Russia, Ukraine and others. Promising to work in close cooperation with any legitimate government, Parvanov promised to be president of all Bulgarians, stressing also a need for a stronger role of the state and a restored public confidence in statehood. Largely ceremonial, the Bulgarian presidential post has limited powers, but is important for the swift functioning of the institutions as well as for the country's international image.

A historian by profession, Parvanov is also the author of a number of articles and essays. After his graduation from the Sofia University in 1981 he worked as a researcher until 1991.

He is married to Zorka Parvanova, a researcher at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. The Parvanovs have two sons.

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