Bulgarian President Plevneliev ‘ready’ to veto controversial Budget amendments

Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev is ready to veto controversial amendments to Budget 2013 – proposed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party government and currently on the eve of final approval by Parliament – but is awaiting the outcome of debates.

The Budget amendments are being fast-tracked through the approval process by the government because of what it claims are shortcomings in the existing statute and the need to pay for urgent social assistance measures.

Most controversially, the Budget amendments would commit Bulgaria to a billion leva (about 500 million euro) in new debt, a move that has led critics of the government – which for 47 consecutive days has been the subject of protests by many thousands of Bulgarians demanding its resignation – to accuse those in power of forcing through the amendments to fulfil ambitions at once vague but also serving the interests of the “energy mafia”.

Plevneliev, who took office as head of state in January 2012 on a centre-right ticket and in recent months has been at the centre of efforts to try to keep the country on an even keel, was reported on July 30 to have told television station BTV that he was ready to use his constitutional power of vote, because there were many questions that remained unanswered about the Budget revision.

The second-reading debate in the National Assembly of the amendments is scheduled for July 31, soon before Parliament goes on the month-long summer holiday that the parties in power recently voted to approve.

At first reading, the amendments were supported by the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms – which together have half the 240 seats in the National Assembly – while ultra-nationalists Ataka abstained and former ruling centre-right party GERB was opposed, with Boiko Borissov’s party breaking its boycott of Parliament to attend Budget amendment debates and voting.

Asked whether he was willing to use his veto, Plevneliev said that he was, but would wait for the debates.

Asked about the fact that a parliamentary recess was about to happen, he replied that the President was obliged to remain on duty during holidays and beyond the handling of everyday situations.

The Budget was the “most important law in the state,” Plevneliev said, and there were many questions that remained unanswered. Should he use his veto, this would be only the basis of reasoned argument, Plevneliev said.

Should the President exercise his constitution right of veto, to return the law to the National Assembly for further consideration, this veto may be overridden by a majority of MPs.

Sergei Stanishev, a former prime minister and leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, said that he hoped that Plevneliev would not veto the amendments, because this would be “unprecedented”.

“No head of state has vetoed a Budget or a revision because this is not a constitutional issue but one vested in the government,” Stanishev said.

Stanishev’s words were echoed by Plamen Oresharski, appointed in May, when the BSP government came to power, to sit in the prime minister’s chair.

“He (Plevneliev) would become the first Bulgarian President to veto budget policies. No one has done so up to now,” Oresharski said.




The Sofia Globe staff

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