It may seem like a definitive case of rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, but changes to Bulgaria’s cabinet will be put to the vote in the National Assembly on June 20.
The item is the first on Parliament’s agenda for that day, three days after a Consultative Council on National Security meeting produced an agreement on a timeframe for early parliamentary elections on a date between September 28 and October 12.
Pending negotiations among the political parties, it remains unclear when the current cabinet will resign, even though this has been promised by the parties of the ruling axis: the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and the Bulgarian Socialist Party.
As a June 18 headline in Bulgarian-language daily Sega put it, “president and politicians prolong the political agony”.
However much it is clear that most Bulgarians want the current cabinet gone – a cabinet that began its life in May 2013 with minimal credibility and which has lost even that, going by polls and European Parliament election results – the short-term changes are required precisely because of that EP vote,
Iskra Mihailova of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms was elected to the European Parliament, after controversial figure Delyan Peevski declined to take up the seat he won, and Mihailova has to be replaced as environment minister before heading to Brussels to join the 750 other MEPs for the first meeting of the EU’s new legislature on July 1 to 3.
It remains unclear whether there will be other changes to the cabinet, even though such intentions were signalled previously by the parties of the ruling axis, as well as by Plamen Oresharski, the figure placed in the prime minister’s chair in the cabinet when it took office on the basis of a mandate handed to the BSP in May last year.
Also on the agenda on the National Assembly on June 20 are changes to its membership. This arises from MPs being elected MEPs. On that day, it should become clear whether BSP leader Sergei Stanishev will remain an MP, as he has said that he will, or whether he will cling to a shred of his unravelling political career by opting for the safe haven of a seat as a member of the European Parliament for a five-year term.
Among the reasons for yet a further delay in Bulgaria’s political leaders providing some clarity on key issues such as the departure of the current cabinet is that talks among major players cannot start because Stanishev is in Brussels for a Party of European Socialists meeting on June 18 and 19.
Political leaders have to agree not only on when the cabinet goes, but also on which matters should be dealt with by the current parliament and cabinet, as well as the principles and rules that will guide the nomination of Bulgaria’s European Commissioner, and safeguards for fair elections.
Against a background of Stanishev again having led his BSP to defeat in elections, and even though he won a mandate from the national council to lead the party into the next parliamentary elections, the BSP Sofia has called for the party’s national congress to be held as soon as possible to discuss the election platform of the party and its coalition policy.
The former leader of the BSP in Sofia, Roumen Ovcharov, told local media that the reason for the rift between the MRF and the BSP was Stanishev’s bid to return as prime minister after the crisis caused by the party’s defeat in the European Parliament elections.
Ovcharov complained about, among other things, the fact that the BSP learnt about important upcoming moves by the party from the media, such as Stanishev’s call for the introduction of compulsory voting in Bulgarian elections, and his call for early elections in July.
Sofia BSP chairman Kaloyan Pargov said that the party in the Bulgarian capital wanted “change and renewal” in the party, adding that it would not be a problem to change the leader of the BSP before the parliamentary elections.
(Photo of the National Assembly building in Sofia: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)