Bulgaria’s far-right ultra-nationalist party Ataka, fresh from winning no seats in the country’s European Parliament elections, has ignored calls from opposition party GERB to hold off providing a quorum for the May 28 National Assembly no-confidence debate and has signalled it wants the EP election results invalidated.
As expected, Volen Siderov’s Ataka performed poorly in the May 25 European Parliament, not only falling below the threshold for seats but also running behind its ultra-nationalist rival the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria.
Ataka’s failure on May 25 confirms perceptions that it would hardly want the 42nd National Assembly to fall because the party’s prospects of returning to a new Parliament after fresh elections are effectively nil.
After the provisional results of the European Parliament elections – expected to be confirmed by the Central Election Commission on May 28 – showed that the Bulgarian Socialist Party ran an extremely poor second to Boiko Borissov’s centre-right opposition GERB, Borissov made insistent calls for the government in place with the mandate handed in 2013 to the BSP should step down.
May 28 was scheduled to see debate begin in the National Assembly on GERB’s motion of no confidence in the government, tabled on the grounds of the government’s failures in the energy sector.
The motion, tabled before the European Parliament elections but on which debate could not start for lack of a quorum on May 23, was expected to fail, at least in part because the BSP and its ruling axis partner the Movement for Rights and Freedoms would oppose it.
But Borissov also had another strategic goal in mind, to put on the spot the less than a handful of MPs now aligned to Nikolai Barekov’s Bulgaria Without Censorship by seeing whether they would help to provide the ruling axis with a quorum for a vote it was sure to win, and what the eventual vote of the BWC MPs would be when the motion was finally put to the House.
To put the BWC people on the spot would require Ataka to heed GERB’s call to hold off on formally registering as present, a call that was rejected with contempt by Ataka ahead of the May 28 sitting.
In a statement to reporters outside the House, Ataka MP Desislav Chukulov dismissed the no-confidence debate as a farce in which GERB and BWC, in Ataka’s view, were actually colluding.
Referring to the February 2013 “cost of living” protests, Chukulov said that it was in fact GERB’s handling of energy issues that had led to the downfall of the Borissov government, and Ataka intended exposing this in the debate.
On behalf of Ataka – and in the absence of Ataka leader Siderov – Chukulov railed against BWC, calling on the Prosecutor-General, the Central Election Commission and the media to investigate what he alleged was 50 million leva spent on propelling the party formed around Barekov into politics.
Given reports about vote-buying by BWC, Chukulov – his voice rising to a shout – told reporters he wanted to know from the Prosecutor-General “why are you silent?”
Chukulov said that if the Central Election Commission declared the elections legitimate, Ataka would make a formal application for the elections to be overturned, on the grounds of large-scale vote-buying and vote-rigging, of which Chukulov said Ataka had serious evidence.
He said that in challenging the election, Ataka was sure it would have the support of some BSP MPs.
“Until the truth comes out, please do not say that in Bulgaria there is a democracy,” he said.
Also absent from proceedings in the National Assembly at the start of the day on May 28 was Plamen Oresharski, appointed to sit in the prime minister’s chair in May 2013 and whose cabinet was facing the fourth no-confidence vote tabled in it by GERB. Oresharski was in Rome for a meeting with Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, who earlier postponed an appointment with the Bulgarian official.
The socialist Speaker of Parliament, Mihail Mikov, said that the no-confidence debate had not been placed as the first item of the agenda because Oresharski was away. GERB made a failed attempt for the no-confidence debate to be given priority.
At the start of the National Assembly’s sitting, GERB made a call in a parliamentary declaration for the government to resign and make way for early national parliamentary elections in the light of the outcome of the European Parliament elections.
GERB has insisted that the parties currently in power should recognise that on May 25, Bulgarians had passed a motion of no confidence in the government.
The BSP has denied that the results are a reason for the government to resign, with BSP leader Sergei Stanishev saying that turnout was too low for the results to be persuasive. Talks were expected between the BSP and its MRF partner, prompting speculation that the ruling axis may make a bid to save face through cosmetic changes to the cabinet.
Oresharski was reported as saying that he did not see that the political situation had changed, but said that there would be more clarity after the leaders of the BSP and MRF had met.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)