Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said in Parliament on February 20 2013 that he would file the resignation of his government by noon.
He made the announcement in lieu of the changes to the Cabinet that Parliament had been scheduled to vote on.
Borissov’s announcement follows more than 10 days of nationwide protests that began as a campaign against high electricity bills and foreign-owned electricity distribution companies but that turned into anti-government protests.
A protest in Sofia on the evening of February 19 was marred by violence after a small group of youths among the more than 2000 protesters threw stones and other objects at police, who responded with a baton charge, leaving about 15 people injured. During and after the clash, there were 25 arrests.
At a special news conference earlier on February 19, Borissov announced various steps in response to the electricity protests, including an intention to see electricity tariffs reduced by eight per cent from March 2013 and the withdrawal of the licence of distribution firm CEZ, alleged to have committed a number of violations of its licence, an allegation it denies.
In Parliament on February 20, Borissov said that he had done the maximum to respond to the demands of the protesters and would do no more.
“Every drop of blood is a stain,” he told Parliament in reference to the violence at the protest at Eagle Bridge on the night of February 19. Nor could he stand to see Parliament surrounded by fences to protect it, he said.
Bulgaria was expected to hold regular national parliamentary elections on July 5 2013. But addressing the plenary of Parliament on Wednesday, with almost all Cabinet ministers in attendance but with the main opposition party, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, boycotting the sitting.
Once the resignation of the government is officially filed, the initiative passes to the head of state, President Rossen Plevneliev.
Plevneliev had already been scheduled to meet the leadership of the socialist party on February 20 as part of his regular “month of political consultations” initiated after he took office in January 2012. However, less than two hours after Borissov’s announcement of the resignation of his government, President Plevneliev’s press office said that the meeting with the Bulgarian Socialist Party had been cancelled.
Borissov said that he and his ministers would not participate in a caretaker government.
After addressing Parliament, Borissov led his ministers to the Cabinet building for a scheduled meeting of the government before depositing the government’s resignation.
Deputy Prime Minister and deputy leader of ruling party GERB Tsvetan Tsvetanov said that Borissov’s announcement of the resignation of the government was the act of a “real statesman”. The leader of GERB’s parliamentary group, Krassimir Velchev, said that there was no point in the party staying in power at any cost for the following three months.
GERB was elected in July 2009 in regular elections. This ended the four-year rule of a tripartite coalition of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Movement for Rights and Freedoms and National Movement for Stability and Progress.
Sergei Stanishev, leader of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, said on February 20 2013 that his party would not accept any offer to take part in a caretaker government following the resignation earlier in the day of Boiko Borissov’s centre-right cabinet.
Reacting to Borissov’s February 20 announcement, Georgi Purvanov, who was president of Bulgaria from 2002 until 2012 before launching a failed bid to regain the leadership of the socialist party, said that he had expected the resignation of Borissov’s government as it was the only realistic way to stop the protests. Purvanov called for the convening of a Consultative Council on National Security, the statutory body headed by the President with participation of security portfolio ministers and the leaders of all parties represented in Parliament. He said that if the resignation of the government did nothing more than open the way for another round of confrontation, nothing good awaited Bulgaria.
Lyutvi Mestan, leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, said that the resignation of the Borissov government was “a natural end to a totally failed administration”.
Former prime minister Ivan Kostov, leader of the right-wing minority Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, said that Borissov had given in to the demands of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and Movement for Rights and Freedoms. Kostov said that the measures announced by Borissov on February 19 had not been feasible. The whole country had seen live on television the abdication of responsibility by the Borissov government to address the issues that had brought people on to the streets, such as the excesses of monopolies, inflation eating into incomes, and the high prices of heating and electricity.
Volen Siderov, leader of the ultra-nationalist Ataka party, said that a national round table should be convened that included representatives of the protesters but without representatives of parties that had been in power till now.
Martin Dimitrov, co-leader of the right-wing Blue Coalition, said that he did not expect GERB to be elected to return to government. The resignation of the Borissov government was an admission that it had failed in the fight against monopolies since coming to office in July 2009, the Blue Coalition said. At the same time, Dimitrov said that the move by Borissov was irresponsible.
Meglena Kouneva, formerly Bulgaria’s European Commissioner whose Bulgaria for Citizens party aspires to seats in the next Parliament, said that Borissov had chosen the only possible way out of the situation. However, she said, the resignation would not improve the dire economic situation of Bulgaria’s people but could restore the calm that was needed.
Organisers of the nationwide public protests in Bulgaria that played the major role in Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s February 20 2013 announcement of the resignation of his government said a few hours later that the protests would continue in spite of the Cabinet stepping down.
The Sofia Globe will continue to update this story.