Bulgaria Table of Contents
The constitution of 1971 substantially diminished the power of the Council of Ministers, or cabinet, which had been an intermittent center of executive authority in Bulgarian governments since 1878. In the last two decades of the Zhivkov regime, the council acted as an advisory board to the State Council and directed everyday operations of the government bureaucracies. All members of the Council of Ministers belonged to the BCP or BANU, and many held top party posts and ministries simultaneously. Longtime Politburo member Stanko Todorov headed the executive committee of the council from its creation in 1971 until 1989. Within their areas of responsibility, the ministries had authority to form administrative organs and to overturn acts by local government agencies. The exact makeup of the council was not prescribed in the constitution; the National Assembly had authority to make changes as necessary, and the council's shape and size changed often in the last Zhivkov years.
After the elections of 1986, the Council of Ministers was reorganized and reduced in size. In the last years of the Zhivkov regime, it included eleven ministers, a chairman (the prime minister), a deputy prime minister, and the chairman of the Committee on State and People's Control (see Security and Intelligence Services , ch. 5). In early 1990, the new provisional council had fourteen ministries: agriculture and forests; construction, architecture, and public works; economy and planning; finance; foreign affairs; foreign economic relations; industry and technology; internal affairs; internal trade; justice; national defense; national education; public health and social welfare; and transport. The ambassador to the Soviet Union also had full cabinet status, as did the heads of the committees for protection of the environment and state and people's control. Five deputy prime ministers also sat in that cabinet, which was headed by Zhivkov-era holdover Georgi Atanasov. The second provisional cabinet, under Andrei Lukanov, included ministers of the environment, culture, and science and higher education in its seventeen departments. The ambassador to the Soviet Union was dropped, and a minister for economic reform added.
The new status of the Council of Ministers as the power center of Bulgarian government was signaled by the targeting of Prime Minister Lukanov for opposition pressure in the fall of 1990. A second signal was intense bargaining between the BSP and opposition parties for positions in the Popov cabinet. That bargaining produced a compromise agreement that gave the key ministries of foreign economic relations and finance to the BSP, with national defense going to the UDF. The Ministry of the Interior, very sensitive because of its role under Zhivkov as the enforcer of state security, was largely reorganized and headed by a nonpolitical figure whose two deputies represented the major parties. The splitting of the deputy minister positions was a key compromise to gain approval of the Popov cabinet. In all, five of the seventeen ministers in the new cabinet were politically unaffiliated; seven remained from the last Lukanov cabinet to soften the transition; and the UDF filled only three posts. The multiparty conference that reached this agreement also allowed for further adjustments in the cabinet structure for the Popov government. As an interim head of government, Popov's main goal was to establish minimal political and economic conditions favorable to long-term reforms.
Data as of June 1992