Bulgaria’s political crisis: Another day of grandstanding and mudslinging

Boiko Borissov saying he will not take part in consultations with other parties because they do not keep their word, Sergei Stanishev remaining an MP, Yanaki Stoilov quitting as deputy head of the BSP parliamentary group and the election of a cabinet minister set for a somewhat short term in office…in short, just another day of melodrama in Bulgaria’s post-European Parliament elections political crisis.

And that is to say nothing of the continuing war of words between Tsvetan Vassilev and Delyan Peevski.

June 19 saw a confrontation over a vote to override President Rossen Plevneliev’s veto of sections of the Interior Ministry Act.

This confrontation came against the background of the previous day’s incidents in the National Assembly in which centre-right GERB opposition leader Boiko Borissov succeeded in having this and another item postponed on the grounds that proceeding with them would be a violation of an agreement among the four parties with parliamentary groups that such matters should be delayed until there was consensus on which issues could be handled as priorities in the closing weeks of this parliament and cabinet.

In a dramatic gesture in front of reporters in the corridors of Parliament on June 18, Borissov tore up a copy of the agreement among the parties reached at a Consultative Council for National Security meeting the day before.

On June 19, the Bulgarian Socialist Party put the presidential veto of the Interior Ministry Act on the agenda of the National Assembly, arguing that it could do so after Borissov tore up the agreement.

In turn, Borissov said that he would not take part in the four-party consultations expected to begin on June 24. These consultations are intended to, among other things, decide on a date for ahead-of-term national parliamentary elections.

The BSP and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms were failing to keep their word about the June 17 agreement, Borissov said.

Asked how these consultations could take place without his involvement, Borissov said that it would be the same as in the current National Assembly: “They (the BSP and MRF) are a coalition, Ataka backs them, it secures them a quorum and they move on”.

As to his having torn up the agreement, Borissov said that the other parties already had done so, in the National Assembly the previous day.

Borissov already had spoken out against the June 18 decision by the cabinet to nominate UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova as Bulgaria’s candidate to be the next UN Secretary General, describing the move as “impudent” given that the nomination referred to a choice to be made in 2017.

Meanwhile, Yanaki Stoilov resigned as deputy head of the BSP parliamentary group on June 19, after an disagreement within the BSP and with the MRF over a proposal by GERB to amend the Penal Code to make reference to the “Revival Process”, an episode in the later years of Bulgaria’s communist-era history when the regime committed gross violations of human rights in trying to force ethnic Turkish Bulgarians to change their names to Slavonic ones.

Stoilov is the second deputy head of the BSP group to resign from that post, a few days after Kornelia Ninova did so in response to the aftermath of the party’s defeat in the May 25 European Parliament elections.

On June 19 the National Assembly accepted the resignations of the MRF’s Iskra Mihailova and GERB’s Tomislav Donchev and Emil Radev, who will be taking up the seats they won in the European Parliament elections.

Mihailova resigned as environment minister, to be replaced by Stanislav Anastasov. Sworn in immediately, Anastasov is expected to have a short career in the cabinet, which may last only as long as until the end of July till resigning to make way for early parliamentary elections. GERB abstained from the vote, meaning that the new minister was elected only with the votes of the BSP and MRF.

Reportedly, Stoilov had wanted to postpone voting on the cabinet appointment, which was made by the MRF, in response to the MRF and GERB move on the “Revival Process”. However, his parliamentary group did not support him.

At the same time, notably absent from the MPs who tabled their resignations to go to the European Parliament was BSP leader Sergei Stanishev.

Stanishev had said repeatedly that he would not become an MEP. However, doubt has been cast over this, especially among those who expect Stanishev’s downfall in the BSP and possibly the Party of European Socialists which he leads, as well as the draining away of his chances of achieving his hope of becoming Bulgaria’s European Commissioner.

Stanishev still has until June 23 to officially specify whether he will take up a seat as an MEP.

Outside Parliament, the war of words continued between Corporate Commercial Bank majority shareholder Tsvetan Vassilev and Delyan Peevski, the scion of a mass-media-owning family and MRF MP whose abortive appointment in June 2013 as head of the State Agency for National Security sparked a continuing series of public protests demanding the resignation of the cabinet and early elections.

Allegations have been flying in recent days against a background of Vassilev and Peevski, previously seen as having close business relations, having fallen out with each other, allegedly over issues involving large bad debts.

Among episodes in recent days was one in which three men were held in connection with an alleged plot to murder Peevski, with some media reports alleging that Vassilev was behind the plot. All of this collapsed after a single court appearance, with first the court and then the Prosecutor-General saying that there was no evidence of a plot.

Vassilev, speaking from the Austrian capital Vienna in an interview with Bulgarian-language mass-circulation daily 24 Chassa, said that Peevski saw himself as the “potentate” of Bulgaria.

Responding, Peevski rejected this label, saying that on the contrary, it was Vassilev who saw himself as the “untouchable potentate” of Bulgaria.

Apart from criticising the conduct of Vassilev and his bank, Peevski added that Vassilev was “obviously unable to accept the fact that I refused to support him and side with him in his ambition to become prime minister. I did so because he has long lost an idea of the time we are living in and has crossed the boundary between the real and the unreal.”

Vassilev told bTV in an interview that it was a “myth” that he had worked in tandem with Peevski and said that Peevski had proven unworthy of the trust he had put in him. Vassilev also denied allegations that he used state money to finance the business undertakings of Peevski “or anyone else”.

Referring to the Bulgartabac issue, said to be the source of tensions between Vassilev and Peevski over debt problems, Vassilev said that at the tobacco company, huge amounts of money had been drained and “probably go to someone’s accounts outside Bulgaria”.

The regulator did nothing about this because it was intimidated, Vassilev said.

Nikolai Barekov, the former talk show host and former TV7 executive around whom the populist Bulgaria Without Censorship party was formed in recent months, said on June 19 that he was “grateful” that Vassilev had said, as had Peevski, that Barekov’s party had not been funded by Vassilev.

Vassilev, Peevski and Barekov were the subject of a dossier handed to the Prosecutor-General’s office in February by the anti-government Protest Network. The dossier contained allegations made in media reports and the network called on authorities to follow up these allegations with investigations, alleging that Vassilev, Peevski and Barekov were acting as an organised crime group.

Authorities have confirmed that investigations are proceeding. The Prosecutor-General’s office turned down a request by CCB for a counter-investigation into the Protest Network for allegedly breaching the law in submitting the dossier by making what Vassilev’s bank called “groundless allegations”.



The Sofia Globe staff

The Sofia Globe - the Sofia-based fully independent English-language news and features website, covering Bulgaria, the Balkans and the EU. Sign up to subscribe to sofiaglobe.com's daily bulletin through the form on our homepage. https://www.patreon.com/user?u=32709292