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Bulgarian Court Bars Socialist Party's Presidential Candidate

Sofia, July 23 (RFE/RL) -- Bulgaria's Costitutional Court today ruled that the Socialist Party's candidate for president, Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski, is not eligible to become president.

Judge Ivan Grigorov said the constitution "imposes the condition that the president of the Republic must be a Bulgarian citizen by birth." In today's ruling, the court said "citizenship by birth" could only be acquired under the legislation valid in Bulgaria at the time a person was born.

Pirinski was born in New York in 1948 to an American mother and a Bulgarian father who had registered as an alien of Yugoslav origin and "Macedonian" nationality. Pirinski kept his U.S. citizenship until 1974. Under Bulgarian laws of 1948, Pirinski could not acquire immediate Bulgarian citizenship if he had American citizenship at the same time.

The RFE/RL correspondent in Sofia reports that Pirinski might still be registered with the Central Electoral Commission as an offical candidate. It would then be up to the Supreme Court to overturn his registration by applying today's ruling.

There was no immediate reaction from Pirinski's campaign officer or from the Socialist Party Headquarters.

Pirinski was a member of a hard-line communist cabinet in Bulgaria before 1989. He was appointed last year as foreign minister in the cabinet of Prime Minster Zhan Videnov, who also is a former communist.