Bulgarian MP Polina Karastoyanova has resigned from the nationalist Patriotic Front parliamentary group after being ousted by the group from committee posts.
Karastoyanova’s application to leave the Patriotic Front group had been made the day before, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Tsetska Tsacheva, announced at the start of the parliamentary sitting on June 9.
On June 8, the Patriotic Front, a minority partner in the Bulgarian government coalition agreement, withdrew Karastoyanova as head of the parliamentary committee on culture and the media and from all other committee memberships.
Patriotic Front co-leader Valeri Simeonov said that the decision to withdraw Karastoyanova had been made because, he alleged, she had been involved in “lobbyist” legislation.
The Karastoyanova issue had been a bone of contention in the Patriotic Front for some months.
Towards the end of 2015, Simeonov’s National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria had lost confidence in her because she was involved in the tabling of amendments to the Excise Duty Act that were seen by critics as favouring the mainstream liquor production industry against small-scale manufacturers of alcohol.
But at the same time, the leader of the other main component of the Patriotic Front, VMRO leader Krassimir Karakachanov, backed Karastoyanova, reports said.
The June 2016 break came over Karastoyanova backing changes to the copyright laws, which Simeonov also alleged to be lobbyist.
The culture and media committee will now be headed by Slavcho Atanassov, the former Plovdiv mayor who failed to secure election to that post in the October-November 2015 municipal elections.
Atanassov told reporters that his main priority would be to campaign to reduce the rate of value-added tax on books in Bulgaria, which he described as the highest in the European Union.
Since the current Parliament was elected, Atanassov is the third MP to head the committee on culture and the media. The first chairperson, Slavi Binev, resigned in December 2014 following public protests against his appointment to the post.
Karastoyanova, a 46-year-old Plovdiv-born former flight attendant, was previously associated with Simeon Saxe-Coburg’s party having seen as an adviser to the former prime minister. She is a former head of the National Tourist Board, one of several such organisations in that industry.
The Patriotic Front is the fifth-largest group in Parliament. The departure of Karastoyanova, who will now sit as an independent, leaves the Patriotic Front with 17 MPs.
That means that as of June 9 2016, the line-up of parliamentary groups in Bulgaria’s 43rd National Assembly is GERB (84 MPs), Bulgarian Socialist Party (38 MPs), Movement for Rights and Freedoms (30), Reformist Bloc (23), Patriotic Front (17), Bulgarian Democratic Centre – People’s Union (14), ABC (11), Ataka 11. Twelve out of 240 members of the National Assembly sit as independents.