Bulgaria’s unicameral Parliament voted on February 21 2013 by 209 votes to five with one abstention to accept the resignation of the country’s centre-right government, opening the way towards the formation of a caretaker government and the holding of ahead-of-term elections.
Ruling party GERB said on February 20 that it would vote in favour of the resignation of the Cabinet, making the outcome a certainty.
Prime Minister Boiko Borissov was not present in the National Assembly until the final few minutes before the vote was taken. Absent throughout was Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Simeon Dyankov.
Cabinet ministers present included Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov, EU funds minister Tomislav Donchev, Health Minister Desislava Atanassova, Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov, Justice Minister Diana Kovacheva, Regional Development and Public Works Minister Lilyana Pavlova, Labour and Social Policy Minister Totyu Mladenov, Agriculture and Food Minister Miroslav Naidenov, Transport Minister Ivailo Moskovski and Economy, Energy and Tourism Minister Delyan Dobrev.
The sitting of Parliament was broadcast live on major television and radio stations.
Early in the debate, which started just after 9am, a motion by Petar Kurumbashev, an MP for the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, for Borissov and Dyankov to be summoned was rejected, largely with the votes of ruling party MPs – although nine ruling party MPs abstained in the vote.
Responding to Kurumbashev’s motion, ruling party GERB parliamentary leader Krassimir Velchev said, “he (Borissov) has other tasks, you know, he is still Prime Minister. We are not going to fulfil the whims of people (the BSP) who for three years have been unwilling to work”.
As debate wore on past the three-hour mark, opposition MPs used the opportunity to paint the GERB government as a failure, especially on economic issues. Tsvetanov hit back by attacking the record of the socialist-led coalition, in office from 2005 to 2009, also on economic issues and in failing against organised crime.
Socialist leader Sergei Stanishev poured scorn on Tsvetanov’s assertions about the government’s achievements. “One question – if things are so wonderful, how did we get here? One question – if things are so wonderful, why were 100 000 people on the streets of Bulgarian cities last Sunday, calling for the resignation of the government?”
Following the nationwide protests that have continued for several days, which when they saw incidents of violence precipitated Borissov’s decision to step down to trigger early elections, Parliament was protected by serious security measures, including barriers of metal fencing and a significant police presence outside.
President Rossen Plevneliev was scheduled to address the nation live on television at noon on February 21 2013. However, by close to 1.30pm, proceedings in Parliament were still continuing, leaving the head of state in a holding pattern.
Procedurally, Plevneliev as head of state should proceed with offering the three largest parties in turn a mandate to attempt to form a government. This process is expected to be no more than ritual before the apparently inevitable formation of a caretaker government to manage the country pending the holding of elections.
Given the time frame for the procedure, overall expectations are that an election will be held in the second half of April. Bulgaria customarily holds elections on Sundays. Two dates seen as most likely are April 21 and April 28.
A snap opinion survey by Alpha Research, reported by Bulgarian National Television on February 21, found Bulgarians almost evenly divided in approving or disapproving the decision by Borissov for his government to step down.