Bulgaria’s ruling majority succeeded on October 19 in overturning President Roumen Radev’s veto on the bill to amend the Defence Act.
The motion to overturn the veto passed with 131 votes in favour, coming from the GERB and United Patriots, as well as small opposition party Volya, and was opposed mainly by the socialist party. Among MPs for the Movement for Rights and Freedoms opposition party, one voted against the motion and the rest abstained.
The provisions specifically targeted by Radev detail the job requirements for the Defence Ministry’s chief secretary. In a statement announcing the veto earlier this month, the presidency’s media office said that Radev believed that the new “draft will not overcome the existing imprecision and gaps in the existing legislation and creates the conditions for discrimination for a number of categories of people. The new requirements are not a guarantee for higher professionalism.”
During the debate that preceded the vote, GERB MP argued the opposite, saying that the new amendments would prevent cases like earlier this year, when Roumen Vassilev was appointed to the job despite having no previous experience in the state administration. Vassilev was appointed by the caretaker minister Stefan Yanev, a close ally of Radev, who is now the president’s chief adviser on defence.
In recent years, incoming governments have routinely used minor legislative changes to open proceedings to appoint senior officials, such as chief secretaries, in ministries. Yanev, in particular, replaced all the top officials in the ministry, appointed under the previous administration of prime minister Boiko Borissov, prompting accusations of “purges” in the ministry.
Borissov won the snap parliamentary polls in March and returned as head of government. The amendments would allow Borissov and his defence minister, Krassimir Karakachanov, to undo the appointments made by Radev’s caretaker minister.