Bulgaria’s unicameral Parliament, the National Assembly, voted on October 11 to approve the resignation of Anton Todorov as an MP for Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s party GERB.
Todorov submitted his resignation after a series of controversies, culminating in remarks in a breakfast television interview that were seen as a threat to have the interviewer fired.
The vote to accept Todorov’s resignation was 153 in favour, 14 against and with 11 abstentions. The night before the vote, the GERB parliamentary group met to discuss the resignation application but emerged to say that they had not reached consensus on the matter.
Opposition MPs used the opportunity to assail the government and coalition majority partner GERB.
Dragomir Stoynev of the Bulgarian Socialist Party said that in just a week, Todorov had turned from “an exceptional person with perfect analytic skills and punctuality” as GERB parliamentary leader had described Todorov, “an unwanted colleague weighing on the GERB party”.
This was a reference to the fact that a GERB proposal to nominate Todorov to head the Dossier Commission had been dropped amid controversy about his background.
“Why is this, colleagues? Does he not often and ostentatiously call the opposition ‘murderers’? Does he not preach against the communists well enough?” Stoynev said.
“Valeri Simeonov is also important,” Stoynev said, referring to controversy about remarks by the Deputy Prime Minister and United Patriots co-leader that reports also said had threatened the interviewer (Simeonov denies making threats and has said he will take court action against the media that said that he had).
Stoynev noted that, as the debate in the National Assembly was proceeding, there were protesters outside the Cabinet office. On the morning of October 11, coinciding with the Cabinet meeting, Bulgarian journalists held a protest in support of media freedom, called by the Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria.
The BSP MP said that perhaps the time would come when again Parliament would be debating a resignation, either of the government or again from the GERB parliamentary group.
Recently, another GERB MP, Delyan Dobrev, submitted his resignation amid controversy about him, but the National Assembly voted not to accept it. Neither of the first two Borissov governments completed their term, resigning to prompt early parliamentary election.
Yordan Tsonev of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the fourth-largest parliamentary group, said that when Stoynev had mentioned Simeonov’s name, there had been discontent from the United Patriots benches.
“Why, honorable nationalist colleagues. Here, I am looking into your eyes and asking you. What language does Deputy Prime Minister Simeonov use? Is he not one of the pioneers of this language in Bulgaria? Why is his resignation not here on the table today? Was he not in the same studio? Did he refer in the same way to the host?”
GERB MP Toma Bikov said that it was claimed that freedom of speech had been shut down, “but in the history of the Bulgarian Parliament, no MP has resigned because of an interview. This is proof that there is freedom of speech, that there is power of the media”.
“Over the past two weeks, we have witnessed a compromise attack that has escalated into a compromising war. And it has one goal – to remove the current democratically elected government. And you do not hide it. To bring down the government at a time when Bulgaria will take over the presidency of the European Union, at which society has calmed down and people have started to spend their money,” Bikov said.
Speaking after the vote, Todorov told reporters in the corridors of Parliament that Borissov had been “strongly opposed” to him resigning. However, in discussing it, he and Borissov had decided that his remarks had been turned into a propaganda tool, Todorov said.