Bulgarian Parliament heads into latest day of debt drama

Bulgaria’s cabinet postponed its meeting scheduled for the morning of February 25 to allow ministers to attend a planned vote on a borrowing deal that Prime Minister Boiko Borissov had portrayed as determining whether his government would continue in office.

The vote in Parliament was postponed from last week when it was unclear whether Borissov’s centre-right government, in office since November 2014, would secure sufficient support for a package involving up to eight billion euro in borrowing over three years, needed – according to the cabinet – to address old debt and to stabilise against deficits in these three years.

As controversy mounted about the deal, Borissov said earlier in February that he would resign, bringing down the government, if Parliament did not vote in favour of ratification.

Reports said that it could not be ruled out that the February 25 vote, provisionally on Parliament’s draft agenda, might be postponed again if the numbers were not running in the government’s favour.

Informal calculations on February 24 showed that those who would vote in favour of ratification of the borrowing scheme added up to a certain 106, with 12 added to that if a minority party – Bulgarian Democratic Centre – was on board, and then with two independent MPs, 120 in favour out of 240 MPs.

Borissov’s GERB party has said that of the projected maximum borrowing, only about two billion euro would go to deal with the deficit up to 2017, while the remaining about six billion euro would be to cover old debts.

Cabinet ministers have insisted that the plan being put for ratification is only a framework to allow the borrowing to be on a more favourable basis, with the specific debt to be decided annually as part of voting on the national budget.

Two opposition parties, the Bulgarian Socialist Party and far-right ultra-nationalists Ataka, again planned protests outside the National Assembly building against the borrowing, local media said.

The borrowing also is opposed by the former 2013/14 ruling axis partner, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.

A day before the provisionally scheduled vote, minority socialist party ABC, otherwise a supporter of the cabinet, reiterated that it would not back the ratification of the borrowing plan. The position of the other minority parliamentary group backing the cabinet, the nationalist Patriotic Front, remained ambivalent after days in which it signalled reluctance to support the scheme.



The Sofia Globe staff

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