Bulgaria's caretaker prime minister says priority is rule of law

Newly appointed caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Yanev shakes hands with Bulgaria's President Rumen Radev during an official ceremony in Sofia, Bulgaria, May 12, 2021. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's new caretaker prime minister said on Wednesday his government's priority would be upholding the rule of law in the European Union's poorest member state.

President Rumen Radev appointed Stefan Yanev, a former defence minister, to lead the government until a snap election in July after an inconclusive election last month resulted in a deadlocked parliament that failed to produce a government.

The previous government, led by Boyko Borissov, kept Bulgaria's economy afloat and put the country on the path to joining the euro zone but its failure to tackle widespread corruption frustrated voters.

"Honest and responsible work by the government can at least partially restore the lost trust in state institutions," Yanev, who was Radev's defence and security secretary before his appointment, said during a televised inauguration ceremony.

"I will insist that the government works in full transparency and in accountability to citizens... I place the most important emphasis on upholding the rule of law."

Yanev, 61, who served as a deputy prime minister and defence chief in an earlier caretaker government appointed in 2017 and has held posts in the NATO military alliance, said the government would do its best to ensure fair elections.

It will be "absolutely uncompromising" against any attempted election violations, he said.

Bulgaria ranks as the EU's most corrupt member state, according to watchdog Transparency International. It has been criticised by Brussels for failing to overhaul its judiciary or jail any high-ranking officials on corruption charges.

Radev supported anti-government protests last year in which Borissov, who had held power with only small breaks since 2009, was criticised for weakening state institutions for the benefit of local oligarchs and businesses close to his centre-right GERB party.

The July election is widely expected to produce another splintered parliament that may struggle to produce a government.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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