Bulgarian MPs were scheduled to vote on the nomination of Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Kouneva as education minister on February 3, but growing opposition within the ranks of the ruling coalition made her confirmation uncertain.
Kouneva is slated to replace Todor Tanev, who submitted his resignation on February 1, after several days of political melodrama triggered by Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s request last week that Tanev resign, citing under-performance in education portfolio, against a background of changes in the school syllabus and programme that have caused considerable public consternation.
Borissov said that he “accepted the nomination by Reformist Bloc”, a junior coalition partner in the ruling coalition. Kouneva is leader of the Bulgaria for Citizens Movement, one of the constituents of the Reformist Bloc, and already a deputy prime minister in charge of European policies co-ordination and institutional affairs, ultimately in charge of foreign policy.
However, Kouneva did not have the endorsement of the entire parliamentary group of the Bloc, with media reports claiming that up to 10 of its 23 MPs could abstain during the vote.
The bloc currently has a complicated relationship with Borissov and the government, after some of its MPs – most notably Radan Kanev, leader of the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, another constituent of the coalition – withdrew their parliamentary support for the Cabinet over the judicial reforms amendments to the constitution, arguing that last-minute changes fell short of the deal agreed as part of a “historic compromise” last summer.
The other two junior partners in the coalition have also said, over the past 24 hours, that they would not back Kouneva’s nomination during the vote in the National Assembly.
Former president Georgi Purvanov, the leader of socialist splinter ABC, said that his party wanted the nomination withdrawn. “Even though [the process is] on the final straight, the more rational approach is withdrawing the nomination and holding serious consultations,” he told reporters on February 3.
The previous evening, the co-chair of the nationalist Patriotic Front, Valeri Simeonov, said that the group would not back Kouneva’s nomination. “It is more likely that she will be appointed, but this is not the most important matter, what is important is how we will continue to work in this four-party format from now on, when decisions are imposed on partners; that’s not healthy,” Simeonov told private broadcaster Nova Televisia.
Several opposition parties – including the socialists, the predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms, as well as ultra-nationalist Ataka – have said that they would vote against the nomination.
Kouneva does appear to have the support of GERB, the party of PM Borissov, and just over half of the Reformist Bloc MPs. Her nomination only requires a simple majority of the MPs present in the House for the appointment to be confirmed.