Bulgaria’s Reformist Bloc proposes steps to end crisis, launch reforms

Written by on December 1, 2013 in Bulgaria - No comments

The Reformist Bloc, an alliance of a number of minority right-wing and centrist parties that currently lack seats in Parliament, has spelt out what it sees as the steps necessary to end the crisis and initiate the reforms that Bulgaria needs.

These steps begin with the immediate resignation of the current government, which is discredited in the eyes of Bulgaria’s citizens and of Europe, representatives of the Reformist Bloc told a news conference on December 1 2013.

Only new rules and laws could provide higher incomes, new jobs and inward investment. The current government could not carry out these changes, because they lack the political will and public trust to do so, the Reformist Bloc said.

The bloc also wants to see urgent changes to electoral laws in accordance with international recommendations.

The 42nd National Assembly – elected in May 2013 and the subject of continuing protests demanding its resignation – should be dissolved and new parliamentary elections held no later than Bulgaria’s European Parliament elections scheduled for May 2014.

The Reformist Bloc said that the current legislature is associated with violations of the laws and the rights of citizens, as well as violations of the constitution and Bulgaria’s EU accession treaty.

Further, the bloc said that it wanted to see the formation of a reformist government with a limited mandate to work on emergency and short-term solutions to improve the lives of citizens and to optimise the activities of state institutions through economic measures to curb corruption, especially in public procurement and the energy sector.

The bloc said that such a government should establish a fair relationship between banks and borrowers, a normal business climate, curtailing monopolies and creating the conditions for the revival of small businesses, new jobs and increase of incomes.

Also needed were radical reform of the Interior Ministry, the prosecution and the judiciary, an Operation Clean Hands, a new election law and new media regulations.

The sixth step proposed by the Reformist Bloc is the initiation of a major public debate on amendments to the constitution and the national priorities of Bulgaria, laying the foundations for a Third Bulgarian Republic and a decision to convene a Grand National Assembly.

In television interviews in recent days, one of the leaders of the Reformist Bloc, Meglena Kouneva of the Bulgaria for Citizens Movement, faced questions on the issue of whether the bloc could go into coalition with former ruling party, Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB, as well as questions on the Reformist Bloc’s approach the European Parliament elections in 2014.

GERB was in power from 2009 to early 2013, and in the May elections, won the largest single share of the vote but was unable to return to power because it had no allies in the 42nd National Assembly.

It was this that led to the formation of the current government, on the basis of the mandate handed to the second-ranked Bulgarian Socialist Party, which now governs in co-operation with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and with the tacit support of ultra-nationalists Ataka.

Faced with widely-supported continuing public protests demanding its resignation, the current government – which lurches through a series of serious blunders and not fully-thought-through populist measures – has sought to portray all opposition to it as part of a vast conspiracy to return GERB to power.

Against this background, the Reformist Bloc, which the more reliable polls see as certain to take seats in the next National Assembly, continually faces the question of whether it would work with GERB, in particular to keep the current ruling axis from grasping on to power.

BSP leader Sergei Stanishev on November 29 challenged the Reformist Bloc to say whether they would be in coalition with Borissov’s party, with Stanishev saying that he assumed that such co-operation was not excluded, meaning – in his views – that the Reformist Bloc was a “crutch” for the return of the GERB government.

Kouneva responded in a television interview that Stanishev’s challenge was a cheap shot.

She said that there elements in the conduct of GERB and its demands that were the same as those of the Reformist Bloc, notably the demand for the resignation of the BSP government. This did not imply that there would be a coalition, according to Kouneva.

There were, however, other issues on which the Reformist Bloc did not agree with GERB, such as their relation to justice and home affairs issues and their vote in Parliament in favour of extending beyond January 1 2014 the moratorium on the sale of land to foreigners.

Kouneva said that the only coalition at this point was that of the parties in the Reformist Bloc, and “after the elections we will see”.

In an interview with public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television on November 30, Kouneva was asked who would lead the electoral list for the Reformist Bloc in Bulgaria’s European Parliament elections. While giving no direct answer and mentioning some names, she spoke highly of Dimitar Bechev, praising his intellect, personality and activism, and saying that it was always interesting to hear the perspective of Bechev – director of the Bulgarian office of the European Council on Foreign Relations – on foreign policy issues.

Kouneva said that on December 15, the Reformist Bloc would hold a news conference giving its perspective on the most important foreign policy developments this year.

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