Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov rushed to Parliament for an unscheduled stop on October 14 to deal a tongue-lashing to his GERB parliamentary group, and to threaten coalition partners with a Cabinet reshuffle or early elections.
Borissov was apparently angered after his and other parties colluded to deny a quorum to a special sitting of the National Assembly called at the initiative of the opposition.
While Bulgaria’s Parliament on October 12 voted itself a recess of close to a month ahead of the country’s November presidential elections, the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party had raised more than enough signatures from MPs to call a special sitting for October 14.
But ruling coalition MPs from Borissov’s GERB party, minority coalition partner the Patriotic Front and opposition party Ataka declined to formally register as present. After three attempts to confirm a quorum so that the sitting could proceed, the day’s plenary was cancelled.
The BSP immediately announced that it was raising signatures for a further special sitting, probably in the middle of next week.
News of the collapse of the planned sitting prompted Borissov to make an unscheduled stop at Parliament.
Borissov spent 20 minutes in the room of his GERB parliamentary group.
Emerging, he said that he had told Dimitar Glavchev, who is acting as principal presiding officer of Parliament while Speaker Tsetska Tsacheva is on leave to stand in the presidential elections, to make a special sitting happen.
Borissov said that he had “asked” his GERB party “not to be swayed by populism and the outright insolence that our colleagues demonstrated”.
Borissov said that he was urging all political parties to come to work at the National Assembly next week.
Turning to lash out at the Reformist Bloc, the centre-right coalition that is a minority partner in government, Borissov accused them of hypocrisy for having Cabinet ministers and deputy ministers in the administration and at the same time criticising the Cabinet. He called on the Reformist Bloc to clarify whether it was in opposition or was a governing coalition partner.
“My patience has run out,” Borissov said. “Either the Reformers come and act like a ruling coalition party, or ‘goodbye’,” he said.
Of the Reformist Bloc and the Patriotic Front, Borissov said that his party backed their ideas, “and when we have a problem, they hide”.
Borissov repeated his threat that unless his party came first in the presidential elections on November 6, he and his government would resign and precipitate early parliamentary elections.
He went on to deny that it was his party that had proposed the inclusion on the presidential election ballot paper of a box marked “I don’t support anyone”. This option, apparently included to mollify Bulgarians irked by new legislation that makes voting in elections compulsory, has been the subject of widespread criticism, including claims that the methodology of recording how it is used could render the presidential elections vulnerable to a challenge in the Constitutional Court.
Borissov said that the Reformist Bloc had proposed the “I do not support anyone” box on the ballot paper because they were afraid that they would not surpass the four per cent threshold in the next elections.
It was an “absolute lie” that the “I do not support anyone” box had been proposed by GERB’s Danail Kirilov, Borissov said.
Separately, reports said that it was Kirilov who had proposed the box, and Kirilov confirmed this on October 14, saying that the idea had come from human rights organisations, though he did not say which ones.
Borissov’s GERB backed this past Wednesday’s vote for Parliament to go into recess for close to a month until the presidential elections. GERB’s own initial proposal had been for a shorter recess, but it then supported a proposal from Ataka for a longer recess, put forward to prevent plenary sittings of Parliament being used for electioneering.
The October 14 special sitting initiated by the BSP had been intended to have three agenda items – reversing the decision to go into recess for a month; the EU-Canada trade deal; and a parliamentary Question Time.
Seventy-three votes were collected to hold the sitting, 25 more than the minimum required. BSP leader Kornelia Ninova claimed that the proposed agenda had been co-ordinated with the MRF, ABC, Reformist Bloc and independents, but the Reformist Bloc later denied this.
The October 14 episode was not the only occasion in which a sitting of Bulgaria’s Parliament has failed for lack of a quorum.
After Irina Bokova failed in the race to be UN Secretary-General, as did Bulgaria’s late-in-the-day official candidate Kristalina Georgieva, MPs from the opposition BSP and MRF refused to register for a scheduled sitting, denying the National Assembly a quorum.