Bulgaria’s socialists, one of the two parties in the ruling coalition, said on August that the party would call an extraordinary sitting of Parliament during the summer recess, to discuss the veto imposed by President Rossen Plevneliev earlier in the day on the Budget revision bill.
MP Anton Koutev said that the party, alongside the Government, will hold talks with “all interested stakeholders” and will ask that Parliament holds a sitting, without giving any further details about the possible date.
Koutev’s statement after the veto announcement was a sharp U-turn in the socialists’ position on the issue. On August 5, socialist Speaker of Parliament Mihail Mikov had said that the National Assembly would not break its summer recess to discuss the veto.
In a statement on the Parliament’s website, Mikov said on August 8 that he would call an extraordinary sitting of Parliament on August 30.
During Koutev’s brief news conference, after which reporters were not given the opportunity to ask any questions, the MP said that the veto was expected and did not come as a surprise.
He rejected the President’s reasoning for the veto – lack of transparency – suggesting that Plevneliev had “slept through the budgetary procedure” and failed to notice that trade unions and employer associations all supported the Budget revision.
“After so many expert arguments where the money will go, the veto shows that the arguments for it are not expert, but political. These are the president’s attempts to interfere in a process that is not within the powers of the presidential institution,” Koutev said.
One of the reasons given by Plevneliev for his veto on parts of the Budget revision bill was that the increased spending was not clearly earmarked in the bill.
“Let it be clear to everyone that the bill passed by the National Assembly, in its spending section amends only the figure allocated to urgent and unforeseen spending. What does this mean? It means that none of the arguments given in the reasoning for the revision, nor those circulated in the public space concerning this revision, are included in the law, and the Cabinet can spend the increased amount as it sees fit,” Plevneliev said during a televised address in which he explained his reasons for the veto.
Plevneliev also said that if he could draft the reasons for imposing the veto in two days, then MPs had plenty of time this month to review the objections.
This was a mild rebuke to the Cabinet ministers and MPs from the ruling coalition, who have said in recent days that should Plevneliev impose a veto, that would delay the Budget revision to October – the unspoken implication being that Parliament may choose to overturn the veto rather than amend the Budget revision bill.
A motion to overturn the veto requires 121 votes in Bulgaria’s 240-seat Parliament; the ruling coalition between the socialists and the predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF)has 120 MPs.
Last week, however, the National Assembly overturned Plevneliev’s veto on the recent amendments to the Special Surveillance Means Act, which regulates when and how law enforcement can use eavesdropping, thanks to the votes of 11 MPs from ultra-nationalist party Ataka. (Plevneliev has said he would challenge the bill at the Constitutional Court.)
The party denies accusations of working in concert with the ruling coalition between the socialists and the MRF – a frequent target for Ataka leader Volen Siderov’s attacks over the years – but routinely provides enough MPs on Parliament benches to ensure parliamentary quorum.
(Bulgaria’s Parliament. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)