Bulgarian nationalist coalition the Patriotic Front (PF) says that it is awaiting Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s answer on whether he will withdraw the appointment of Deputy Defence Minister Orhan Ismailov, whom it opposes as “a representative of an ethnic party serving foreign interests”.
The Patriotic Front, which is among minority parties that Borissov depends on for support in Parliament for his GERB-Reformist Bloc coalition cabinet, also has upped the stakes by reminding Borissov that its support for the government also depends on compliance with the front’s demands on the energy sector.
PF co-leaders Valeri Simeonov and Krassimir Karakachanov held talks at the cabinet office in Sofia on the night of November 19 with Borissov, reportedly spending only 15 minutes on its demand for Ismailov to go, with the rest of the time devoted to other issues.
Reports said that Borissov had a week to respond to the PF’s demand, although the nationalists denied that they were setting ultimatums.
Simeonov, speaking to reporters, said that if Ismailov – appointed on the recommendation of the Reformist Bloc – remained in office, the PF could withdraw its support from the Borissov government.
According to Simeonov, the talks with Borissov were “amicable on both sides”.
“We put forth our argument that in the basic setup of our programme, we cannot accept the appointment of people representing ethnic parties or parties serving outside interests to positions of responsibility in government,” Simeonov said.
He said that “Mr Borissov listened to us carefully and made a commitment to respond to our request”.
“We cannot set deadlines,” Simeonov said. “The issue is too much one of responsibility to play with deadlines and ultimatums.”
If there was no response in a week, it would be assumed that Borissov had decided to retain Ismailov, and the PF would consider its position.
Simeonov said that the electricity price was among the PF’s explicit demands in exchange for supporting Borissov’s government.
“This stance of ours will remain unchanged until we achieve success. Let everyone know this could happen after a large-scale revision and audit of the energy sector. This is to happen in the time-frame of a month or two and then we will able to seek a change to the electricity tariff,” Simeonov said.
He said that the chairpersons, deputy chairpersons and members of parliamentary committees had to be equally allocated.
Radan Kanev, co-leader of the Reformist Bloc parliamentary group, said that the PF’s ultimatum was very worrying.
He said that he had had conversations with representatives of the PF about Ismailov. “Obviously we will have to have more,” Kanev said.
He defended Ismailov as someone of exceptional qualifications for his post.
The appointment had not been a partisan one and it was untrue that Ismailov had been with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the former ruling axis party that is led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity.
Kanev said that there was “no sin” about Ismailov, except that he had a Turkish name. Earlier, in turn, the PF denied that it was opposing Ismailov because of his ethnicity.