In what socialist opposition MPs decried as a stunt ahead of Bulgaria’s 2013 national parliamentary elections, the National Assembly voted on September 20 2012 to set up an ad-hoc multi-party committee to investigate high-level corruption.
The proposal was put by Yane Yanev, leader of the miniscule Law Order and Justice party, which, since the estrangement of Volen Siderov and the ultra-nationalist Ataka party from Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB government, has been an informal ally – “constructive opposition”, in Yanev’s words – to Borissov’s administration.
The committee, which will have six MPs from GERB, two from the socialist-led Coalition forBulgaria, two from Ahmed Dogan’s Movement for Rights and Freedoms, one from the right-wing Blue Coalition, one from Ataka and one independent MP, will have a term of office of six months.
This means that its term will expire a few months before the elections to be held in summer next year.
Yanev told the House that the committee should investigate suspected corruption in connection with various high-profile controversies in recent years, including the Tsankov Kamuk dam scheme, the financial crisis around state railways BDZ, the now-scrapped Belene nuclear power station saga, the Arsenal plant in the town of Kazanluk, among others.
In effect, Yanev’s list of scandals has to do with issues linked, one way or the other, to parties formerly in power before Borissov won the July 2009 national parliamentary elections – the Bulgarian Socialist Party and Dogan’s MRF.
Socialist MP Angel Naidenov said that the establishment of the committee was intended to distract attention from any scandals linked to GERB.
He said that the current government was incompetent to manage and in three years in office, had failed to resolve a single case of corruption and abuse in government circles.
The committee was evidence of Yanev’s dream of emerging in a position of power in a future coalition should election results in 2013 prove indecisive, Naidenov said, adding that the committee was a “mockery” and a “violation of parliamentary principles”.
Siderov, who led his party in informal alliance after Borissov’s GERB formed a minority government in 2009 but who fell out with Borissov in 2010, said that he very much hoped that the ad hoc committee on corruption would begin an investigation of the Prime Minister of Bulgaria.
MRF MP Chetin Kazak said that Dogan’s party would not support the establishment of the committee because Parliament had no investigative function, “to become an FBI”.
GERB MP Plamen Nunev said that the ruling party had no worries about the formation of the committee. He said that when there had been allegations of corruption against members of GERB, reaction had been immediate in the form of prosecution and trials in court.
High-level corruption is a continuing theme in Bulgarian public life. The problem has been highlighted time and again in a succession of reports by the European Commission.
Like its northern neighbour Romania, on joining the EU in January 2007, Bulgaria was subjected to a Co-operation and Verification Mechanism by the European Commission, set up as a means to bring the two EU newcomers up to the bloc’s standards in justice and home affairs.
In turn, EC findings on Bulgaria’s and Romania’s shortcomings in justice and home affairs – read, in fighting organised crime and corruption – have been cited by the minority of EU states continuing to prevent the two countries’ admission to the Schengen visa zone, even though the governments in Sofia and Bucharest have met the technical requirements for their countries to be admitted to Schengen.
Since GERB came to power, there have been prosecutions of various former cabinet ministers from previous administrations on charges including corruption, abuse of office and criminal neglect, but these prosecutions have tended, when completed, to result in little or nothing.
Cleaning up corruption and organised crime was a key platform plank of Borissov’s campaign ahead of the 2009 elections.