Bulgaria’s National Assembly voted on October 4 to reject the resignation of senior GERB member Delyan Dobrev as an MP, which he had submitted after coming under sustained attack from the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party over alleged favouritism in appointments in Haskovo municipality.
GERB leader, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, earlier in the day told a news conference in Varna that Dobrev’s resignation was a “moral act” but in Parliament in Sofia, the GERB parliamentary group declined to accept Dobrev stepping down as an MP.
The vote on the resignation was 99 against, 97 in favour, with 19 MPs abstaining.
The vote came after a heated debate of more than two hours, against a background of more than a week of GERB and the BSP trading allegations of favouritism and nepotism in appointments at various levels of government.
Amid the high emotions in the House, GERB MP Spas Garnevski said: “Delyan, my friend, please do not give up your seat, this Parliament needs you, Bulgaria needs you, please withdraw your resignation”. After leaving the speaker’s podium, Garnevski embraced Dobrev.
These emotions were echoed by a series of GERB MPs. The party’s parliamentary leader, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, said that GERB would not allow Dobrev to leave Parliament.
GERB’s Toma Bikov said that the BSP were bent on “destroying the skilled and competent people, as they did on September 9”. This was a reference to the 1944 communist takeover of Bulgaria, which led to many thousands of deaths.
Dobrev told the House that he did not acknowledge any guilt and repeated, as he had said this past Sunday when announcing that he would table his resignation, that he intended lodging court action against BSP MP Elena Yoncheva – who led the charge against him – for defamation.
The BSP, Dobrev said, had assembled a number of “small truths” to make a “sinister picture”.
Dobrev, who was economy, energy and tourism minister in the first Borissov government that took office in 2009, listed what he described as his achievements, including the projects to explore for natural gas in the Black Sea, and the signing of a gas contract without intermediaries.
“We terminated the unprofitable Belene nuclear power station project. We have negotiated very advantageous conditions for South Stream. In my time, for the first time, the cost of gas supplies was reduced,” Dobrev said.
He told Yoncheva: “I will be remembered in politics for all these achievements and for the sincere support that I have received in recent days. You will be remembered in politics as my hangman and murderer in politics. No trial and conviction. Are you wondering what I will do after leaving Parliament? The first thing I will do is seek my rights in court, to establish that we are no longer in September 9 1944 and cannot impersonally remove the inconvenient”.
Speaking for the opposition Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the Bulgarian National Assembly’s fourth-largest parliamentary group, Yordan Tsonev said that the MRF would vote in favour of Dobrev’s resignation because, as Borissov had said, it was a moral act.
The leader of Parliament’s smallest party, Vesselin Mareshki of Volya, said that the party would vote against Dobrev’s resignation because Dobrev was “not the face of corruption in the country”.
Borissov, at his news conference in Varna where he was taking part in a succession of meetings of leaders from various Balkan countries, noted that GERB wanted Dobrev to remain in office.
Borissov said that it would be the right thing for the mayor of Haskovo, Dobri Belivanov, to resign and for mayoral elections to be held. He added that Belivanov had the right not to do so, and the question was a moral choice.
The GERB leader said that he would order a check whether there were cases of appointments of relatives. Borissov said that GERB had come to power saying that such things should not happen.
Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov had fired his wife from a post at the ministry, though she had worked there long before him, Borissov said.
A day before the vote in the National Assembly, the BSP levelled a new round of allegations against GERB of nepotism and favouritism, saying that at state-owned gas transmission Bulgartransgaz, a number of senior appointments were held by people from GERB or related to people from Borissov’s party.
The BSP said that this model of appointments was applied throughout the government administration and in state-owned enterprises.
At a GERB news conference on October 3, Dobrev said that he was a victim of a “war”, an apparent reference to an earlier statement by President Roumen Radev – elected in 2016 on a ticket backed by the BSP – that GERB was waging war on him and “if they want a fight, they will get one”.
GERB also levelled allegations regarding the employment of the spouse of BSP leader Kornelia Ninova, who was employed at LUKOil. GERB raised the question whether Ninova was in a conflict of interest when in Parliament she voted on matters related to the fuel market, and asked whether LUKOil had contributed to BSP election efforts.
Ninova said that when the BSP was in power, her husband had left the employment of the state. She said that she had taken part in no vote in Parliament that would put her in a conflict of interest situation because of her husband’s employment.
LUKOil had never supported an election campaign by her or her party, Ninova said. Separately, LUKOil issued a statement asking that its name not be dragged into politics.