Borissov’s GERB: Bulgaria’s ruling coalition is stable

Bulgaria’s ruling coalition is stable and any attempts to undermine confidence in its artificially will result in nothing more than a storm in a teacup, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party said on December 18, dismissing opposition speculation about early parliamentary elections.

The declaration by GERB was read in the National Assembly by MP Tsveta Karatantcheva on the day that the National Assembly voted to approve the appointment of Ekaterina Zaharieva as Justice Minister to succeed Hristo Ivanov, a Reformist Bloc member who resigned his post in protest against the version of constitutional amendments on judicial reform approved by Parliament.

Ivanov’s resignation was followed by one of the parties of the Reformist Bloc, a minority partner in the coalition cabinet formed by Borissov in November 2014, going into opposition – while the bloc as a whole decided to continue supporting the government.

In debate on Zaharieva’s appointment, Lyutvi Mestan, leader of opposition party the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), said that the government only spoke about reforms without carrying them out and the word reform had become meaningless.

“There is no development without reforms. There is no stability without development…elections have become a necessity, ” Mestan said. Elections were needed, not to halt reforms, but because this government was incapable of carrying them out, he said.

Radan Kanev, leader of the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, the Reformist Bloc party that has gone into opposition, said that the appointment of Zaharieva, twice a former caretaker deputy prime minister, showed that GERB had not had a candidate for the post and there was no stable solution to the state’s serious institutional crisis.

This, according to Kanev, signalled that the government was opening the way to early elections, and this was what the MRF wanted, Kanev said.

Karatantcheva said that the ruling majority in Parliament had carried out the maximum possible number of legislative activities and the national Budget adopted would make possible the normal functioning of all sectors in the country. The GERB declaration hailed as “positive and truly reformist” the “historic compromise” that had made possible the approval of the constitutional amendments.

GERB was determined to achieve reforms, but these should not be at any cost but should have been carefully thought-through, based on debate and with genuine support in Parliament, serving the needs of society and guaranteeing a long-term result, the party’s declaration said, vowing that judicial reform would continue and that anyone saying the opposit was a “manipulator”.

Meanwhile, in Bulgaria in past days and weeks, civil society has been seeking to put pressure on the country’s politicians towards genuine judicial reform.

Photo via the Facebook page of the 'Justice for All' initiative.
Photo via the Facebook page of the ‘Justice for All’ initiative.

There have been a number of well-attended public protests on several evenings in Sofia, further stimulated by Ivanov’s resignation on a matter of principle.

On December 18, the civil initiative “And Justice for All” (“Правосъдие за всеки”) urged new Justice Minister Zaharieva to start a new procedure towards constitutional changes and to submit a report prepared by Ivanov on a draft new Judicial System Act.
“Justice for All” said that these two steps would be a major landmark whether Zaharieva would do something to continue judicial reform.

In their open letter to the new minister, the group told her that she had neither the time nor the “comfort” because of the low level of public confidence in the judicial system.

Civil society was alert and would know immediately whether Zaharieva was ready to work honestly and boldly to solve the serious problems in the judicial system or whether her office and activity would be used only to calm the public and mitigate the criticism in the monitoring report by the European Commission at the end of January 2016.

The statement said that in recent months, Bulgarian society had seen an unprecedented war by the oligarchy and the status quo against real judicial reform in the country. Ivanov’s judicial reform had been replaced by a political deal and double compromises. “Justice for All” called for the introduction of full independence of the courts from the political class and from the prosecution as a party in the process, and the immediate start of a fight against high-level corruption.

Should Zaharieva have the vision and courage to work towards solving the serious problems of the justice system, “you will receive our support, and that of thousands of Bulgarian citizens yearning for the rule of law, independent court, effective prosecution and functioning institutions. If not, you will be just be a convenient minister serving the replacement of reform in favor of the plutocratic status quo,” the Justice for All initiative said.

Also on December 18, Roumyana Buchvarova, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of coalition policy and a senior GERB figure, said that an annexe to the coalition government agreement would be signed in early January 2016, before the resumption of Parliament on January 13.



The Sofia Globe staff

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