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Thursday, 5 July, 2001, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
Bulgarian ex-King tipped for PM
Ex-King Simeon II talks to the media on 2 July 2001
The former King would have preferred to be president
The new Bulgarian parliament has met for the first time, almost three weeks after ex-King Simeon II, and the movement named after him, won a remarkable election victory.


In Simeon people saw an alternative... a symbol who can act as a bridge between the past, the present and the future

Ahmed Dogan of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms
Speculation in Bulgaria has centred on what post the former King will take, with most observers tipping him from the premiership.

The former monarch, who did not run as a candidate for parliament, was among the honorary guests at the session.

President Petar Stoyanov said he would start consultations on the new government with the ex-King's movement on Friday.

Coalition partners

The National Movement for Simeon II won 120 out of 240 seats in parliament, just one short of an absolute majority.

Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov
Stoyanov: Joining Nato is historic goal
Simeon, or whoever becomes the new prime minister, will then have a week to introduce his cabinet to parliament for approval.

Late on Wednesday, representatives of his movement said they would form a coalition government with the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), which has 21 parliamentary seats.

MRF leader Ahmed Dogan said he would be "very happy" if Simeon would accept the post of prime minister.

"In Simeon people saw an alternative... a symbol who can act as a bridge between the past, the present and the future," he told parliament.

Nato goal

President Stoyanov told parliament that the most important tasks facing the new assembly were preparing for entry to the European Union, and in particular securing an invitation to join Nato next year.

"If you achieve this, you will have a place in history," he said.

The former King has made it clear on several occasions that he would personally have preferred to run for president as a less party-political, mostly symbolic role, but a constitutional court ruling in the spring and the continuing popularity of the current president appear to have persuaded him to abandon that path.

His other option, to try to restore the monarchy, which most historians accept was abolished illegally in 1946, is not among his immediate plans.

The former monarch, who is 63, left Bulgaria at the age of nine after the country was occupied by the Soviet Red Army, and has lived most of his life in Spain.

Now a Madrid-based businessman, Simeon was welcomed by hundreds of thousands of supporters when he made his first return to the country for 50 years in 1996.

He is the first eastern European monarch to enter politics.

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See also:

14 Jun 01 | Europe
Old king promises new Bulgaria
03 May 01 | Europe
Bulgarian ex-king in the running
04 Apr 01 | Europe
Ex-king to unveil political plans
15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bulgaria
15 Jan 01 | Europe
Timeline: Bulgaria
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