The former leader of Bulgarian right-wing minority party, Martin Dimitrov, was among a group of MPs expelled from the party on November 26 2012 after rebelling against a now-failed plan to nominate Bulgarian former president Petar Stoyanov to a vacant seat on the Constitutional Court.
This was the latest twist in two of Bulgaria’s continuing political dramas – first, the scrambling to effect repair work after an earlier nomination of Veneta Markovska collapsed amid national and European-level controversy; the other, the saga of the agonising slow implosion of the once-mighty Union of Democratic Forces.
Markovska was earlier nominated by Parliament in a majority vote to the Constitutional Court seat, but allegations about her led to her downfall through a two-step process in which, first, President Rosen Plevneliev declined to attend her swearing-in – thus rendering the procedure invalid – and, second, Markovska finally bowed out by announcing that she wanted to go on pension.
This was followed by Bulgaria’s centre-right ruling party GERB, after spending some time in a quandary about how to fill the vacuum created by the Markovska debacle, announcing that it was leaving the matter to the UDF, a minority party with which GERB has hardly collaborated since Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s party came to power in July 2009.
UDF leadership announced that it was putting forward the name of Stoyanov, a Plovdiv lawyer nationally known for having been head of state from 1997 to 2002 and who subsequently was one of a succession of leaders who sought – and failed – to rescue the UDF from its declining fortunes in the wake of its thorough defeat in the 2001 national parliamentary elections.
But after Stoyanov’s nomination was announced, first he said that he needed three days to think about it, and then it emerged that the UDF parliamentary caucus – made up largely of loyalists to a different and now-ousted generation of leadership – would not agree to table his nomination in Parliament.
After three days had passed, Stoyanov sent a letter to current UDF leader Emil Kabaivanov, saying that he was honoured by the trust represented by his nomination, but, he said, he had been unable – “in spite of my efforts” – to stand down from his international commitments.
The UDF announced that it would come up with another nomination, by which time it was clear that the Stoyanov episode had brought to a head profound tensions within the party and with its sometime ally, former prime minister (and also a former UDF leader) Ivan Kostov’s Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria.
Among objections within the UDF to the Stoyanov exercise was that the party had been gulled into acting as a crutch to help GERB limp out of the embarrassment that the Constitutional Court saga had become. Dimitrov was among those who went on the record about their misgivings, which also included the fact that the nomination of Stoyanov had been made public without the party’s parliamentary caucus being consulted.
On November 26, it emerged that Dimitrov had been expelled from the UDF, along with Vanyo Sharkov and Dimo Gyaurov. Kabaivanov told a news conference that if the remaining MPs in the UDF parliamentary caucus did not co-operate in the next nomination of a Constitutional Court judge, they too would be expelled from the party.
The DSB, meanwhile, said that it would not participate in what it described as the “discredited” procedure to fill the vacant Constitutional Court seat.
DSB deputy leader Svetoslav Malinov said that the party believed that the dignity of Parliament and of the Constitutional Court had been humiliated and no responsible party should have any further part of proceedings.
For several months, a range of opinion polls have given the UDF and the DSB no chance of returning to Parliament after the 2013 elections.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)