Country Listing

Bulgaria Table of Contents


Local Government

In 1987 Bulgaria consolidated its local government structure by combining its twenty-eight districts (okruzi; sing. okrug), into nine provinces (oblasti; sing. oblast), including the city of Sofia (see fig. 1). A tangible part of the Zhivkov regime's massive (and largely theoretical) plan for economic and political restructuring, the reorganization imitated restructuring plans in the Soviet Union. Local government consolidation was to eliminate the complex and inefficient okrug bureaucracies and improve the operation of "people's self-management," the system by which people's councils nominally managed area enterprises. The latter improvement was to result from narrowing the primary function of the new oblast government to the assistance of local workers' collectives. At the same time, municipalities and townships became somewhat more autonomous because the restructuring gave them some of the administrative power removed from the higher level.

Although the number of districts had remained stable from 1959 until the 1987 reform, the number and allocation of smaller urban and rural political entities changed rapidly during that period as the population shifted (see Population , ch. 2). In 1990 there were 299 political divisions smaller than the oblast and twentynine separate urban areas. Both oblasti and smaller constituencies were ruled by people's councils, elected for thirtymonth terms. The local multiple-candidate elections of February 1988 were another aspect of the restructuring program. Although local election commissions retained considerable influence over nominations, about 26 percent of successful candidates were nonparty in 1988. At that time, 51,161 councillors and 3,953 mayors were elected.

The people's councils at all levels were run by elected executive committees that met continuously. These committees had full executive power to act between sessions of the people's councils, in the same way as the State Council acted for the National Assembly in the Zhivkov-era national government. Each council was responsible to the council at the next higher level; financial planning was to conform to the goals of national economic programs. Local councils had authority over the People's Militia, or police, as well as over local services and administration. The Popov government scheduled new local elections for February 1991, after which time reforms were expected in the local government system. Meanwhile, most provincial governments remained under the control of Zhivkovite officials, intensifying the schism between the urban and provincial political climates.

Data as of June 1992