The February 28 2013 entries in The Sofia Globe’s notebook, amid Bulgaria’s continuing political crisis:
• President Rossen Plevneliev named May 12 2013 as the date of the ahead-of-term national parliamentary elections, saying that this was the earliest date possible in the two-month timeframe, and adding that the dates of April 28 and May 5 had been rejected because these are Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, respectively, in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church calendar.
• Boiko Borissov emerged from the Lozenets government hospital after spending four days there being treated for high blood pressure. His deputy in the outgoing government and in the GERB party, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, said that if GERB won the elections, Borissov would again be Prime Minister. This may be an attempt at reassurance and confidence after it emerged that Borissov had been diagnosed with high blood pressure problems and ischemic heart disease two years ago, but amid the current uncertainty, few could fail to notice Tsvetanov prefaced his statement with “if”.
• However, Borissov’s absence caused a second postponement of the week’s Cabinet meeting, this time to Friday morning at 10am. At this writing, it was not yet confirmed what would happen regarding Question Time in Parliament, which in turn was postponed from last Friday after Parliament lost its quorum. Presumably the question would be resolved by scheduling between Parliament and the Cabinet office, so that ministers – under pressure as it is – would not have to be in two places at once.
• Speaking of scheduling, the initially announced intention of Plevneliev was to hand the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the third-largest party in Parliament, a mandate to attempt to form a government on March 1. In the late afternoon of February 28, Plevneliev’s office said that this would now take place on March 5. The 2pm slot in Plevneliev’s diary previously used for offering mandates-to-govern already had been scheduled for the first meeting of the “public council” of representatives of protesters, business, trade unions and NGOs that is meant to have input into the work of the caretaker government.
• Yane Yanev, leader of the minority Order Law and Justice Party, said that Ognyan Donev, head of the Confederation of Industrialists and Employers and boss of the Sopharma company, had been seen leaving the President’s office on Thursday and accused Plevneliev of having secret meetings with “oligarchs”. Plevneliev’s office responded with a statement that Plevneliev had been in talks with leaders of a number of business associations and of trade unions. Donev is among the invitees to the “public council” meeting on March 1.
• The first to react to Plevneliev’s speech to Parliament were the centre-right Blue Coalition, who welcomed the date of the election and the President’s calls for a calm and mature approach to the weeks ahead; and Ataka, whose leader Volen Siderov, who dismissed Plevneliev’s address as populist and cliché-ridden. “This is the most populist speech I have heard in years,” said Siderov, in an intriguing indication that he does not listen to his own speeches.
• Electricity prices, the issue that started the nationwide protests, continued to the subject of a lack of clarity. On February 27, Economy and Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev declined to forecast what the price reduction would be, after Parliament approved legislation making it theoretically possible to cut prices from March 1. On February 28, the head of the energy regulator, Yuliana Ivanova, indicated that the price reduction might not take effect on March 1, and might not be the eight per cent initially spoken of by Borissov before he resigned. Daily newspaper Sega commented that the handling of the electricity price issue “now resembles something between an action film and a farce”.
• Promised pension increases will go ahead as planned on April 1, Plevneliev said in his speech to Parliament, and the caretaker administration will operate with the national Budget already approved.
(Photo, of Plevneliev addressing Parliament on February 28: president.bg)