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Diplomat named interim PM in crisis-hit Bulgaria

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Bulgaria's president named on Tuesday career diplomat and former deputy foreign minister Marin Raykov as caretaker prime minister until early elections on May 12, following the resignation of the government last month.

"The tasks before the government are clear -- to prevent the social and political crisis from turning into an economic one by chasing away investors and discouraging employers ... and to be a guarantor for free and democratic elections," President Rosen Plevneliev said.

Other members of the interim technocrat administration, which will take office on Wednesday, include deputy central bank governor Kalin Hristov as finance minister.

Bulgaria's once hugely popular right-wing prime minister Boyko Borisov resigned on February 20 after massive public discontent over high electricity bills, growing poverty and corruption.

Raykov, 52, said he would act to ensure law and order as well as economic stability, while also promising to listen to the demands of protestors, who have kept up their demonstrations even after Borisov's resignation.

"We will oppose every attempt to throw the country into chaos," Raykov said.

Raykov has served as deputy foreign minister in two governments, including that of Borisov. He has served as ambassador to France twice -- from 2001 to 2005 and again from 2010 until Tuesday's appointment. He will also now serve as foreign minister.

Harvard economics graduate Asen Vasilev was tapped as the next economy and energy minister, while European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) expert Iliana Tsanova will take care of the European funds portfolio as vice premier.

The interior ministry will be headed by police general Petya Parvanova, the first woman to occupy the post.

With Borisov's outgoing GERB party and the opposition Socialists tied in recent polls with about 22 percent each, analysts predict a highly fragmented next parliament, making the formation of a new government tough.

Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007 but still remains outside the eurozone and the passport-free travel Schengen area.

Despite relative macroeconomic stability in the former communist country, its population of 7.4 million people has the lowest living standards across the 27-member bloc.

Poverty, social injustice, corruption, cronyism and general disillusionment with the political class have led to ongoing street protests for the past four weeks that grew violent at times. Three people died after setting themselves on fire.

Bulgaria's lev currency has remained stable only due to a regime that pegs it to the euro at a fixed rate and Raykov promised to battle any attempt at reviewing that.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130312/diplomat-named-interim-pm-crisis-hit-bulgaria