Bulgarian MPs agreed to hold a special sitting on July 29 to debate the Budget revision proposal put forth last week by the Plamen Oresharski government. The motion was passed shortly after Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev called, in a special address to the National Assembly, for the legislature to pass the proposal.
MPs from opposition party GERB and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), which was part of the ruling axis backing the Oresharski administration – whose resignation Parliament accepted on July 24 – voted in favour of the motion. MRF’s erstwhile coalition partners, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), voted against.
Last week, the cabinet presented its Budget revision bill, which envisions the allocation of 225 million leva to the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), revises the Budget revenue downward by 500 million leva, as well as raises the government debt ceiling by about 3.4 billion leva (about 1.75 billion euro).
On the House floor on July 25, socialist MPs leader Atanas Merdzhanov said the Budget revision was not in the political agreement paving the way for early elections on October 5. He also used quotes from Plevneliev’s veto on the Budget revision demanded by the ruling axis in August 2013 – arguments that, at that time, his party chose to disregard when overturning the veto.
He said that socialist MPs will seek a meeting with Oresharski, who remains in office on interim basis until the appointment of a caretaker cabinet on August 5, and will ask him to retract the bill.
Later in the day, asked by reporters whether he would do as asked, Oresharski said that he would not retract the amendments. He said that the bill put forth by the cabinet had been “carefully considered” and was meant to make life easier for the caretaker government.
BSP has opposed the revision since the start, supporting only the additional funding for NHIF, with observers interpreting the move as reluctance to make life easier for the next government after the snap polls, which is not expected to include the socialists.
GERB leader Boiko Borissov said that his party would vote in favour of the proposal, describing the move as a “huge concession.” The party said, last week, that the proposal does not go far enough in supplementing NHIF’s budget or increasing the debt ceiling, necessary to finance deficit spending in a number of areas where the Oresharski administration had large-scale payment arrears.
The MRF too would support the revision as tabled, as final show of its support for the Oresharski cabinet, MP Yordan Tsonev, the head of Parliament’s budgetary committee, said.
This prompted accusations from Merdzhanov that GERB and MRF were clearly acting together, in concert with Plevneliev – charges that Borissov denied, saying that GERB and MRF had presented clear reasons on the topics where their positions are in agreement, such as the Budget revision, the nomination of Kristalina Georgieva for a second term as Bulgaria’s European commissioner and replacing the current governor of the Bulgarian National Bank, Ivan Iskrov.
Should Iskrov hand his resignation before July 29, as he has offered to do, the quick appointment of a successor by the current legislature appears unlikely because it requires a qualified majority of 160 MPs. BSP has 83 MPs in the 240-seat House and can block such an appointment.
(Photo of Bulgaria’s National Assembly: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)