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Bulgaria's Former King Named To Be Country's Next PM


Bulgaria's former King Simeon II has been named to be the country's next prime minister.

The 64 year old Simeon Saxe-Coburgotski, better known by his royal title as Simeon II, said becoming Prime Minister of Bulgaria would be "an extremely difficult and complicated task." But Mr. Saxe-Coburgotski stressed that he wanted to achieve what he promised the people during the election campaign: more prosperity and Bulgaria's integration into the European Union and NATO after decades of Communism.

Mr. Saxe-Coburgotski announced his decision to become the next Prime Minister after Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov said he would give the former king a mandate to form a new government.

The new administration will be subject to a vote in Bulgaria's Parliament on July 24, but approval is expected.

Mr. Saxe-Coburgotski's recently formed political party the NDS, named the National Movement for Simeon II, is just one seat short of an outright majority in Bulgaria's 240-seat Parliament. The NDS party won a landslide victory in the elections on June 17, as voters turned away from traditional parties that failed to end the social ills that have marked Bulgaria following the collapse of communism.

Since the introduction of a multiparty system in 1990, Bulgaria's jobless rate has risen to about 18 percent, and the average monthly wage is about $100, despite rising prices. About 70 percent of the country's eight million people live at or below the official poverty line. Mr. Saxe-Coburgotski suggested he wanted to address these issues as Prime Minister, a post he said he accepted with great emotion, which many took to be a reference to his family's troubled history.

Mr. Saxe-Coburgotski was crowned King of Bulgaria at age six during World War II in 1943, after the sudden death of his father, King Boris. But Simeon II lost his throne following a 1946 referendum, which was widely believed to have been rigged by the country's communist regime. He was forced into exile at age nine with his mother, Queen Ioanna. They fled to Egypt and later he became a respected business executive and consultant in Spain.

Following the collapse of communism, Mr. Saxe-Coburgotski returned briefly to his country in 1996. He came back again three month's ago to form the political party. Several other former Monarchs - from Albania, Yugoslavia, Montenegro, and Romania, also have close contacts with political movements, but never moved on to government positions.

Mr. Saxe-Coburgotski's supporters hope he can use his business connections to attract investments to Bulgaria. But his critics have said that the former monarch lacks the political experience and vision to move the Balkan country forward.

His NDS party has been holding talks about a possible governing coalition with the former ruling Union of Democratic Forces and with the predominantly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom.