Once more round the merry-go-round: Parliament debates no-confidence vote over CVM

The hours that ticked by in Bulgaria’s National Assembly as MPs debated the motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s Cabinet prompted by the European Commission’s report on the country’s performance in justice and home affairs produced few telling points – but hardly anyone needed to score a killing blow as the outcome is a foregone conclusion. Those behind the motion have mustered too little support for it to succeed.

Perhaps Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov was right when he told the House that motions of no confidence had been something of an obsession in the past 20 years. “Whenever we don’t know what to do, we hold a no-confidence debate,” he said. Perhaps socialist leader Sergei Stanishev was right in criticising the Borissov’s Government habit of blaming its predecessors in office. “So far it’s only Khan Asparouh that you haven’t blamed yet,” said Stanishev, referring to the seventh-century CE leader, founder of the First Bulgarian Kingdom.

It would be interesting to know whether Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov was right in alleging that recent governments (an allegation aimed at decidedly post-Asparouh administrations) had failed against corruption and organised crime because they were dependent on paymasters from those very circles.

The motion was tabled by Stanishev’s Bulgarian Socialist Party, Ahmed Dogan’s Movement for Rights and Freedoms and a handful of independent MPs – in all, 74 signatures out of a total 240 MPs – after the European Commission’s July 18 report on Bulgaria’s performance under the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism.

That mechanism was put in place in 2007 when Bulgaria joined the EU, to bring the country up to EU standards in justice and home affairs. In sum, the report acknowledged progress but said that there was a long way to go, and subtly called into questionBulgaria’s determination to achieve anything unless foreign partners were involved.

The motion said that Borissov’s centre-right ruling party GERB had failed in almost all spheres of governance. “This is particularly evident in the areas of human rights, the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary and the compliance with the constitutionally guaranteed principles,” an explanatory memorandum on the motion said.

Stanishev told the House that the language used in the report had removed GERB’s political credibility.

There had never been such a “killing” political assessment of Bulgaria in an EC report, said Stanishev, who was prime minister from 2005 to 2009 in a socialist-led tripartite coalition (which had its own experience of “must try harder” report cards emanating from Brussels).

Stanishev said the fact that the next report would come out only in 18 months was an indication that the EC did not believe that the Government could achieve the required reforms in a year. This also meant postponement of Bulgaria’s entry to the EU’s Schengen visa zone, he said.

He said that GERB – in English, the ruling party’s name is “Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria” – was not entitled to use such a term in its name because the party was an obstacle to the European development of Bulgaria.

The EC report lifted the curtain on a bleak reality that had been created in the years of the GERB administration, that Government and Parliament served specific economic interests and that GERB was creating a one-party state.

In the face of some minority parties having said that they would abstain from voting on the motion or would absent themselves from the House, Stanishev appealed against a stance of neutrality, saying that this was in effect a vote for GERB.

Lyutvi Mestan, deputy leader of Dogan’s MRF, said that the direct political consequence of the way that GERB was running Bulgaria was that Schengen admission had become a “chimera”.

Ivan Kostov, leader of the right-wing Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, said that his party would not participate in the expression of frustration that was the debate. GERB had squandered its chances, he said.

Martin Dimitrov, former leader of the Union of Democratic Forces, said that debating who was to blame, GERB or the former socialist government, was a dead end.

He regretted that the Government had no strength for self-criticism or for seeking consensus on a way out of the situation.

Volen Siderov, leader of ultra-nationalists Ataka – a party that after the 2009 elections initially supported the GERB Government but then became estranged from it – accused Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and the ruling party of disrespect because of Borissov’s absence from Parliament during the debate.

“Disrespect, brutal and dramatic, to Parliament, for the umpteenth time,” Siderov said.

Addressing himself to Tsvetanov, Siderov said, “you and your party leadership are thieves, you stole Ataka’s (parliamentary) subsidy, you bought and stole MPs, and with those MPs you bought, you will save the Government”.

Foreign Minister Mladenov said that there could no doubt that reforms in Bulgaria were hard work.

He thanked the state administration for the years it had spent working on Bulgaria’s EU accession and membership, and also thanked those who had voted for the Union of Democratic Forces, Bulgarian Socialist Party and Movement for Rights and Freedoms, for their efforts during the transition inBulgaria; Mladenov also thanked GERB for its commitment to managing this difficult time.

Mladenov said that what remained to be implemented would not be that difficult but required political will. The Government had the will to implement all the recommendations in the report, not so as to meet the expectations of EU bureaucrats in Brussels but to meet the expectations of Bulgarian society for more justice and security, he said.

Justice Minister Diana Kovacheva said that she strongly objected to what she called “manipulative” interpretations of the EC report.

* This is the fifth motion of no confidence tabled against Borissov’s Government since it came to power in July 2009. The rules of procedure of Parliament require a 24-hour interval between the end of the debate and the holding of the vote.

(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)



Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.