Bulgaria’s unicameral Parliament, the National Assembly, was scheduled to begin debate on September 25 on the first motion of no confidence in the Bulgarian Socialist Party government, tabled by centre-right opposition party GERB on the grounds of the non-functioning of the new Investment Planning Ministry – but the sitting was cancelled when GERB MPs declined to officially register their presence.
With no GERB MPs officially present, and with Ataka MPs away for a meeting outside the country with other ultra-nationalist forces to discuss plans for the European Parliament elections in 2014, the 240-member National Assembly had no quorum.
The motion was tabled by GERB, the former ruling party led by Boiko Borissov, on September 19, on the basis that the ministry has been doing nothing except spend money on buildings, secretaries, drivers and trips.
After the September 25 sitting was cancelled, Borissov said that his party had not registered as present in order to demonstrate the current government’s dependence on Ataka.
“”It is obvious that the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms do not have the needed quorum because their MPs do not come to work,” Borissov told reporters in Parliament.
“You saw it – the entire GERB was in the hall and we wanted to see how powerful they are. The entire Bulgaria will know now that this government is a hostage of the Ataka party, this government does not have parliamentary support and it is a total failure,” he said.
Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev said that GERB had realised it was wrong about the no-confidence motion and had decided to save itself the disgrace in the House and the “thrashing that it would have got during the debates”.
Ivan Danov was appointed Minister of Investment Planning on May 19, after a hiccough in which the first appointee withdrew over controversy about his past. Recent reports in the Bulgarian media have raised the question of what it is that Danov does, with the reports saying that his only activity appears to be turning up for cabinet meetings.
In an interview with local media ahead of the scheduled start of the no-confidence debate, Bulgarian Socialist Party MP Maya Manolova insisted that the ministry was functioning, although no detail emerged in the interview about what it was doing, beyond reiterating previous reports that it was dealing with laws to empower itself.
The BSP has dismissed the GERB motion of no confidence as “absurd” and, in any case, the motion is widely expected to be defeated.
To be approved, the motion would require the votes of at least 121 of the 240 members of the 42nd National Assembly.
Together, the axis alliance of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms have close to 120 seats – there is a constitutional question pending about whether or not Delyan Peevski, the abortive nominee to head the State Agency for National Security, is still an MP – while GERB has 97 and ultra-nationalists Ataka 23.
Ataka leader Volen Siderov, whose vote in May secure the quorum that enabled the BSP-MRF administration to come to power, said ahead of the debate that his MPs would not be present in the National Assembly.
Anti-government protests, demanding the resignation of the BSP government, reached their 104th consecutive day on September 25. The protests became a national feature after the controversial appointment of Peevski, who is part of a powerful media-owning family.
As MPs arrived for the September 25 sitting, before news of its cancellation emerged, a group of anti-government protesters heckled them from behind the metal barriers placed in front of the Parliament building, shouting “resignation!” and “aren’t you ashamed?”
Recent polls have suggested that more than half of Bulgarians support anti-government protesters’ demands for the resignation of the government and the holding of new elections.
Parliament’s rules of procedure say that voting on a motion of no confidence may take place no earlier than the close of debate. It had been expected that the vote would be held on September 26.
The government media office said earlier that the weekly meeting of the cabinet on September 25, instead of being scheduled for a fixed time, would begin after the end of the no-confidence debate.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)