One of the parliamentary groups in Bulgaria’s National Assembly, the Bulgarian Democratic Centre, collapsed on June 3 when one of its constituent parties left, taking their five MPs with them.
For a parliamentary group to be officially recognised in Bulgaria’s Parliament, it must have a minimum 10 members. The Bulgarian Democratic Centre now has nine.
Roumen Yonchev said that his People’s Union party had decided to leave the Bulgarian Democratic Centre because it had become clear during discussions over changes to memberships of parliamentary standing committees that they had no power over decisions in the group.
The Bulgarian Democratic Centre’s Krassimir Kovachka tabled changes to the group’s representatives on parliamentary committees on June 3 that saw People’s Union MPs, including Yonchev, removed from key committees.
The five People’s Union MPs will sit as independents, swelling the number of independents in the 240-member Bulgarian Parliament to 25. The other independents are a mixture of MPs who formerly sat for, among others, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Patriotic Front.
An important effect of the collapse of the group is that now those nominated as committee members by the now-defunct Bulgarian Democratic Centre group will all lose their committee seats, because independent MPs have no automatic entitlement to committee memberships.
The Bulgarian Democratic Centre group had a chequered history since its MPs were elected to the National Assembly in Bulgaria’s October 2014 early parliamentary elections.
Initially it was the group of Nikolai Barekov’s populist project Bulgaria Without Censorship.
In May 2014, Barekov was the centre of a well-funded campaign in European Parliament elections, but his BWC won only two MEP seats, one of which went to Barekov and one to another politician, nationalist Angel Dzhambazki. Barekov and Dzhambazki later became politically estranged, leaving Barekov as the sole BWC MP.
Barekov and his party’s group in the National Assembly also broke with each other, and the group was renamed Bulgarian Democratic Centre. The group had had an inauspicious start, when one of its MPs quit the BWC group before the new Parliament held its first sitting.
While Corporate Commercial Bank majority shareholder Tsvetan Vassilev had been seen as an important backer of Barekov, in the first months in Parliament the BDC group came to be seen as close to wealthy energy sector business person Hristo Kovachki.
Recently, after former BSP leader Georgi Purvanov’s 11-MP ABC group walked out of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s government and went into opposition, BDC’s 14-member group had largely taken its place in a working arrangement to support the government in Parliament, though with no formal coalition arrangement.
However, the People’s Union MPs were reported to have been in talks with Purvanov’s ABC about political co-operation. The five are required to sit as independents because rules of procedure do not allow MPs who quit one group to join another.
The split of the five People’s Union MPs from the nine others is largely a division between those interested in co-operation with Purvanov’s party and those willing to continue in some form of arrangement with Borissov’s GERB.
The October 2014 elections had put eight parliamentary groups into the National Assembly, now reduced to seven with the implosion of the BDC.