Speaker Mihail Mikov ordered a 15-minute adjournment of the National Assembly’s sitting on October 18 as emotions ran high, at one point with groups of rival MPs on their feet in a cluster of confrontation.
The dramatic scenes, which began after a stinging attack by a GERB MP on the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Movement for Rights and Freedoms and Ataka as well as certain media over the ballot-printing controversy ahead of the May election, resulted in a walkout by Ataka MPs.
This Friday’s sitting actually got a quorum, unlike some previous scheduled meetings of Bulgaria’s MPs. But while the gathering was largely intended to hear cabinet ministers in Question Time, proceedings had a number of unexpected features.
One was three university students in the public gallery who unfurled a banner reading, “Students ask: Don’t you feel ashamed before the Bulgarian nation?”
Parliamentary stewards rapidly intervened to remove the banner and eject the students, who nonetheless were invited to coffee by Speaker Mikov, a senior member of the Bulgarian Socialist Party.
The students, who told reporters that they represented no political party or organisation and underlined that their stunt had not been a paid performance, confirmed that they had coffee with Mikov. He had expressed his position and they theirs, but “the positions did not meet”.
On the floor of the House, this lack of a meeting of minds appeared to the order of the day.
In a lengthy exposition on the fact that after the incident at a printing house in Kostinbrod which saw prosecutors raid to find unallocated ballots, in an episode about which there was extensive media coverage and political comment on what was intended to be the pre-election “Day of Contemplation”, just one official was being prosecuted, GERB MP Tsveta Karayancheva lashed out at the parties in power and media allied to them. She asked, among other things, how the leak to the media – specifically to TV7’s Nikolai Barekov – had come about, and reiterated GERB’s earlier claims that the episode, through media coverage and political comment, had violated the law on the Day of Contemplation.
She singled out socialist MP Maya Manolova for her conduct on that day.
“The elections in May were smeared. We want a fair and transparent investigation on the manipulation with the Multiprint printing house,” Karayancheva said.
“The facts and expert’s opinions collected so far did not prove any intention by GERB to manipulate the elections,” she added.
“There are no marked ballot papers. There is no direct connection between the ballot papers found and the elections process. The decision of the voters was traduced, people were misled,” Karayancheva said.
“We insist on getting answers to several questions: where did Maya Manolova get the information about the printing house from; who reported the violations at Multiprint; how much time did Maya Manolova waited for before filing the signal; who is responsible for the leak of information from the prosecution; who is responsible for the declassification of the special operation and the coverage on the news by one concrete media; was journalist Nikolay Barekov questioned,” she said.
“We expect answers to these questions so as to avoid such manipulations in the future,” Karayancheva said.
Her statements provoked an emotional response from the speaker’s podium from Manolova, which in turn led to a further response from GERB’s Karayncheva, including sharp comments against Ataka for what she portrayed as its collusion with the MRF.
Karayancheva said that Ataka was working alongside the MRF and the communists (a reference to the BSP’s lineal predecessor, the Bulgarian Communist Party) who carried out the forced renaming process and destroyed churches.
Within moments, Ataka leader Volen Siderov was on his feet, and a crowd formed around the GERB benches as Siderov sought to confront Karayancheva, leading a number of the larger MPs to form a cordon in an apparent attempt to prevent matters deepening.
With few members seated and amid a considerable din, Mikov made repeated calls for order.
Matters calmed sufficiently for a few moments to allow Siderov to deliver a tirade of his own from the podium. Among other things, he objected vehemently to the imputation of Ataka collusion with the MRF, saying that Karayancheva, along with GERB’s Tsvetan Tsvetanov, had attended a congress and applauded Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
When Siderov returned to the Ataka benches, the ultra-nationalist group walked out of the House. This deprived them of the chance to hear a socialist MP take the podium to attack the GERB MP for imputing that the elections had been “manipulated”, his response being that the Constitutional Court had ruled that they were not.
His plea to Speaker Mikov to act against the GERB MP was met with Mikov responding that he declined to be a censor.
In turn, another GERB MP insisted that scenes of this kind were why the opposition party had wanted Mikov’s resignation, because he could not control the House, which almost – she alleged – had seen a group of men gang up to assault a woman.
Finally, Manolova made another attempt at a statement from the podium, but by that point the hubbub had become so considerable that Mikov ordered an adjournment.
Proceedings resumed after 15-minute break, with Question Time.
A poll by the Alpha Research agency, the results of which were released on October 2, said that the approval rating of the 42nd National Assembly was 11 per cent.