Another day of debacle and disputes in Bulgaria’s no-confidence ‘debate’

The second attempt at holding the debate in Parliament on opposition party GERB’s motion of no confidence in the Bulgarian Socialist Party government resulted in further controversy amid disputes over parliamentary procedure.

On September 25, which had been intended as the day for the holding of the debate, matters ended in debacle when the absence of ultra-nationalist party Ataka and a refusal by GERB to register electronically as present denied a quorum for proceedings, and the day’s sitting of Bulgaria’s 42nd National Assembly ended before it began.

On September 26, even by the standards of the anomaly that Parliament’s largest single party – GERB – is also the opposition party, matters hardly ran along conventional lines either.

First, there again was no quorum, with the continuing absence of Ataka, whose MPs are away in Brussels meeting like-minded parties to discuss plans for the European Parliament elections in 2014, with GERB MPs in the House but again not registering.

After a delay of 30 minutes, socialist Speaker Mihail Mikov took the unusual step of ordering a manual tally by parliamentary tellers, announced that the result was that the House was quorate, and that proceedings could begin. He said that if anyone had doubts, there were enough reporters present to confirm that there enough MPs in the House for a quorum.

At this point, members of the Cabinet, including Plamen Oresharski – appointed in May to sit in the prime minister’s seat in the Bulgarian Socialist Party government – took their seats in the National Assembly, to applause from the benches of the parties of the ruling axis, and cries of “resign!” from the opposition benches.

Almost all the GERB MPs walked out, with their leader Boiko Borissov at their head. Less than a handful, among them former Speaker Tsetska Tsacheva and senior GERB MP Krassimir Velchev, remained to argue with the chair about the validity of proceedings, demanding an electronic vote to establish whether there was a quorum.

Liliana Pavlova, formerly a cabinet minister in the Borissov administration, said, “we are seeing a devastating violation of the constitution and the rules of Parliament.”

As a succession of points of procedure were disputed, Tsacheva called on Mikov to “follow the rules, do not read them as the Devil reads scripture”.

GERB said that it would be tabling a motion calling for the resignation of Mikov and his deputy presiding officers, and wanted to take the matter of the manual vote to the Constitutional Court.

In the House, there was another unconventional spectacle, a debate on a motion of no confidence – tabled by GERB on the grounds of the non-performance of the Ministry of Investment Planning, established back in May – in which no GERB MPs took part.

Oresharski said that the motivation for tabling the motion of no confidence was inaccurate, incomplete and not based on facts.

Investment Planning Minister Ivan Danov said that setting up the administration of his ministry had to some extent been completed – “we have not yet moved into a new building. I hope that in the next week this problem will be solved” – and hit out at the legacy of the management of the portfolio that had been given to his ministry.

Further disputes lie ahead. The rules of Parliament are that a vote on a motion of no confidence may be held no earlier than 24 hours after the conclusion of debate, and Parliament’s presiding officers have set this vote for 11am on September 27.

But GERB insists that the debate that was held was procedurally illegitimate, and said that it intends tabling a motion again on the same grounds as before, the non-performance of the Investment Planning Ministry.

Parliamentary rules do not permit a motion of no confidence on the same grounds within less than six months.

Deepening controversy further, Borissov also said that from September 27, GERB would not take part in any electronic voting, implying that the Friday sitting again could prove impossible for lack a quorum, unless Ataka’s MPs are present.

The GERB boycott of proceedings on September 25, and as attempted on September 26, were – in the words of Borissov – imposed to illustrate the cabinet’s dependence on ultra-nationalists Ataka.

(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)




The Sofia Globe staff

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