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Tensions In The Governing Party

By Maxim Behar

Sofia, April 29 (RFE/RL) - Bulgaria's ruling Socialist Party has suddenly shown a strong division on voting on Bulgarian National TV Director-General Ivan Granitsky.

The Party's Executive Board has recommended Granitsky be fired. But leftist deputies in Parliament last week rejected the Party leadership's suggestion, and voted to keep Granitsky on the job.

Officially, the Party has blamed Granitsky for financial irregularities at National TV and for poor management. But the Party daily "Duma" has reported that Prime Minister Zhan Videnov does not approve of the TV's newscasts or programs.

After the parliamentary vote to retain Granitsky, media committee chairwoman Klara Marinova told reporters, "Don't put me on trial, all we are guilty." Marinova was the person who proposed Granitsky as TV chief about an year ago, but has become one of his strongest opponents.

Our Sofia correspondent notes two main points to the voting drama. First, that this reflects a completely internal Party struggle. And, two, that the Party is clearly intent on controlling National TV in this presidential election year.

Party leaders say they will continue to pursue Granitsky's removal.

Last week's vote coincided with a visit to Sofia of the European Union official responsible for Eastern European media policy, Josef Trappel. Trappel discussed a new medial law proposed by the Socialist government to Parliament. And then he told RFE/RL that he considers the Party to be involved in "unprecedented the national media."

According to the draft law, National Television will be run by a special body of representatives from the main political forces in the country. But that prompted the EU's Trappel to say, "The most important thing for the state television is to become public. That means it will be ruled by a special body consisted from non-political members, specialist and professionals, and it will guarantee the TV independence more then relevant political presentation in the body," he said.

Bulgaria has two nationwide, state-owned channels, and another two local, private channels for the region around Sofia. Last week was supposed to see the opening of a contest to determine a new nationwide frequency, but it was postponed.

Our correspondent reports the new frequency now is not expected to be awarded until after the presidential election.

Our corresondent also cites observers who say the continuing battle over control of National TV is expected to reflect the split in the Party over a presidential canidate: Parliament President Blagovest Sendov and Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinsky.

The observers say Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, supporting Sendov, lost the first round over Granitsky. But Videnov was quoted in the "Standart" newspaper as saying - quote "it's either me or Granitsky."

A high-ranking member of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (anonymous) told RFE/RL that the opposition will support Granitsky - if only to deepen the division in the Socialist Party.