SOFIA, Bulgaria — A Bulgarian deputy minister whose ultra-nationalist party recently joined a coalition with the center-right resigned on Wednesday after a photo emerged of him doing a Nazi salute.
The image, taken in 2008, shows Pavel Tenev raising his right arm in front of a soldier in a wax museum in Paris.
The scandal broke after Bulgarian media discovered the picture on Tenev’s Facebook account.
“I don’t share the (Nazi) ideology,” Tenev said at a press conference in Sofia, adding that his gesture had been meant in a “mocking” way.
“The tension this has created is not helpful for the government, so I’ve asked to be released from my duties,” he said.
— Poslední skaut™ (@Posledniskaut) May 18, 2017
Tenev had served as regional development vice-minister in the power-sharing cabinet of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s GERB party and the United Patriots (UP), unveiled on May 4.
The new government follows snap elections in March, the third in four years in the European Union’s poorest member state, won by GERB but without a majority.
The three parties making up the UP have in the past railed against minorities in Bulgaria, in particular Roma and Turks, as well as against Muslims and gay people.
But they toned down their rhetoric during the election campaign and came third.
UP chief and vice-premier Valeri Simeonov said the publication of Tenev’s picture had been “silly.”
Recalling a visit as a student to the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany in the 1970s, Simeonov told Bulgarian newspaper Sega: “Who knows what funny pictures we took back then.”