Zhelyu Zhelev

Infobox_President | name = Zhelyu Zhelev
Желю Желев
nationality = Bulgarian

order = 2nd President of the Republic of Bulgaria
term_start = 1 August 1990
term_end = 22 January 1997
vicepresident = Blaga Dimitrova
primeminister =
predecessor = Petar Mladenov
successor = Petar Stoyanov
birth_date = Birth date and age|1935|3|3|df=y
birth_place = Veselinovo
death_date =
death_place =
spouse = Maria Zheleva
party = UDF

Zhelyu Mitev Zhelev ( _bg. Желю Митев Желев) (born March 3, 1935) is a Bulgarian politician and former dissident who was the first democratically elected President of Bulgaria from 1990 to 1997.

Zhelev was born in the village of Veselinovo. He graduated in philosophy from the Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski" in 1958 and later earned a Ph.D. in 1974. A member of the Bulgarian Communist Party, but expelled for political reasons in 1965, he was then interned from Sofia the following year and had to spend six years in unemployment.

In 1988 he founded the Ruse Committee and a year later became a founding member and chairman of the Club for Support of Glasnost and Restructuring, which propelled him to the position of Chairman of the Coordinating Council of the Union of Democratic Forces. He was elected MP in the 7th Grand National Assembly, which elected him President of the Republic of Bulgaria on August 1, 1990. In January 1992 he became the first democratically elected Bulgarian President and served his full five-year term until January 1997, having been defeated in the preceding elections by the new UDF candidate Petar Stoyanov.

After the 1996 election defeat Zhelev still remained in politics, but on a much smaller scale. He became Honorary Chair of the Liberal Democratic Union and Honorary Chair of the Liberal International and in 1997 went on to establish and preside over a foundation named after him. Zhelev was the initiator and president of the Balkan Political Club, a union of former political leaders from Southeast Europe.

Zhelev has written a number of books and publications, the most notable one being his controversial 1982 work "Fashizmat" ( _bg. Фашизмът; "The Fascism"). Three weeks after publication in 1982, the book was forbidden and removed from bookstores and libraries as it pointed out similarities between the fascist dictatorship and the socialist regime.

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