In spite of the Bulgarian Socialist Party being trounced in European Parliament elections, the parties of the ruling axis – it and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms – now are taking the line that the future of the government depends on the outcome of a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly on May 30.
On May 29, year to the day that the current government came to power on the basis of a mandate handed to the BSP, which ran second in May 2013 to centre-right GERB but got the chance to form a cabinet when Boiko Borissov’s party had no allies in Parliament with which to do so, there were repeated widespread calls from opposition parties for the cabinet to step down.
These calls come in the light of the BSP’s poor second place in the May 25 European Parliament vote, and after months of widely-supported public protests demanding the resignation of the government and fresh parliamentary elections.
Remarks on May 28 by MRF leader Lyutvi Mestan on the “political reality” that it seemed that the government would not be able to serve out its term of office and that there could be early elections before the end of 2014 resulted in a backtrack and Mestan qualifying his remarks after the considerable excitement they caused.
Mestan sought to further clarify his position on May 29, saying that if Plamen Oresharski (placed in the prime minister’s chair in the BSP cabinet a year ago) wanted to reshuffle his cabinet, the MRF would support this, but would not support a cabinet that had any other prime minister.
According to Mestan, it was Oresharski that should decide whether there should be changes to the cabinet. A day earlier, Oresharski said that there would be clarity on whether there would be a cabinet reshuffle or resignation only after he had discussions with Mestan and BSP leader Sergei Stanishev.
Mestan rejected speculation that given its improved performance in the European Parliament elections, the MRF would make its support of the current government conditional on a stronger share of positions.
From the “clarification” of Mestan’s position by the MRF press centre on May 28 and his May 29 comments, there seemed little doubt – if ever there was – that his party would vote against the motion of no confidence in the National Assembly on May 30.
Stanishev, who apart from opposition calls for the BSP cabinet to resign also is facing some open calls in his own party for a leadership change, urged that there be no rush to early elections this autumn.
In the days since the results of the May 25 European Parliament elections became clear, a number of politicians and commentators have bandied about October as a possible day for ahead-of-term parliamentary elections in Bulgaria.
Stanishev and Mestan had, by the afternoon of May 29, not met to discuss a possible cabinet reshuffle. This would be done only after “analysis” of the election results and the reasons for them.
Stanishev took the line that “we shall see the support for the government in Parliament”.
The BSP leader’s premise is that the European Parliament vote was not a referendum on the future of the current government.
In the current National Assembly, the BSP and the MRF together hold 119 of the 240 seats. Most of the rest are held by GERB (93), some by ultra-nationalists Ataka (23) and five by MPs who have quit other parties, mainly to align themselves with Nikolai Barekov’s Bulgaria Without Censorship party.
To be approved, a vote of no confidence in the government requires at least 121 votes.
Barring a revolt by members of the parties of the ruling axis, which is somewhat improbable, or the motion of no confidence being supported by Ataka, which cannot be expected given that Siderov’s party used the debate to attack GERB and would hardly risk being eclipsed in parliamentary elections the way that it was in last Sunday’s European Parliament elections, it appears that the motion of no confidence will fail.
However microscopically-thin a political premise it may be, it appears that a defeat on May 30 of the motion of no confidence will be Stanishev’s excuse to claim that the government has a legitimate mandate from Parliament to continue in office.
(Left to right: MRF leader Mestan, Stanishev and Oresharski. Photo: bsp.bg)