Tussle over Bulgaria’s new Central Election Commission continues

The political dispute over Bulgaria’s new Central Election Commission (CEC) that has put the President and the parties in power at odds continued in the National Assembly on March 26 2014.

A twist in the dispute came on March 25 when the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, a partner in the ruling axis, said that it was giving up on getting a third seat on the CEC, in spite of its earlier demands for such a seat – and that it would back opposition party GERB’s demand for a deputy chairpersonship of the commission.

Centre-right GERB is the largest party in the 42nd National Assembly but also the opposition after it could find no party with which to form a governing coalition after the May 2013 national parliamentary election.

In a vote on March 25, a deputy chairperson nominated by GERB was elected with the votes of GERB and the MRF, but with the Bulgarian Socialist Party and Ataka abstaining.

Earlier, amid infighting among parties over the CEC, which is being constituted in terms of a new law pushed through by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, head of state President Rossen Plevneliev announced that he was decreeing the composition of the commission.

Plevneliev handed the most seats to GERB, one more than the BSP, while the MRF and far-right ultra-nationalists Ataka got an equal number.

This move by Plevneliev annoyed the BSP, which accused Plevneliev of being biased in favour of the party on whose ticket he was elected President, while the MRF complained about getting the same number of seats as Ataka in spite of having more MPs than Volen Siderov’s party.

BSP leader Sergei Stanishev said that the party was considering approaching the Constitutional Court over Plevneliev’s actions.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly had earlier voted in a commission headed by its own nominee while also denying a deputy chairperson’s post to GERB, whose leader Boiko Borissov complained that failure to hand this post to his party was a violation of the law.

To the fascination of political leaders, GERB leader Borissov and MRF leader Lyutvi Mestan got together on March 23 for a much-photographed coffee-drinking session.

Both denied that there was any basis for speculation that they were discussing a possible future governing coalition arrangement that would cut out the BSP.

But it then emerged that the MRF was giving up the seat that it earlier had expressed indignation about “losing” to GERB, and that Mestan’s party would support GERB’s claim for a deputy chairpersonship.

On March 26, ahead of the day’s sitting of Parliament, MRF MP Yordan Tsonev told public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television that it was counter-productive to continue discussing in public the CEC issue.

Mestan had said clearly that Plevneliev’s action in sharing out the seats on the CEC was unfair and unlawful, Tsonev said. (Plevneliev already has issued a statement spelling out the legal grounds for his decision.)

Tsonev said that the MRF did not want to add fuel to the argument that some in the BSP and that ABC movement leader Georgi Purvanov put forward, that the MRF exercised excessive power.

Tsonev also denied that there could be a warming of relations with GERB, which he said that done bad things to Bulgaria, neglected the institutions, tried to destroy democracy, while its leader Borissov was “cunning” and came up with cheap populist tricks.

Bulgarian media said that the trade-off for the MRF backdown on the current CEC composition would be GERB proposing amendments to the election law to increase the number of members of the commission, which in turn would benefit the MRF.

(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)




The Sofia Globe staff

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