Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s absence from the National Assembly on January 23, when the House held a special sitting to debate the motion on a vote of no confidence in the government on the topic of corruption, took the wind out of the sails of combative socialist leader Kornelia Ninova.
Ninova, who often appears to relish in face-to-face showdowns against Borissov, was deprived of such an opportunity on this occasion, as Borissov and a number of other ministers were absent from the cabinet stand in Parliament.
Several ministers had commitments related to Bulgaria’s rotating presidency of the European Union, which the country assumed at the start of the month, and could not attend. They were replaced by deputy ministers, which the socialists – the largest opposition party in the National Assembly – objected to, arguing that deputy ministers, unlike the holders of cabinet portfolios, did not require parliamentary approval for appointment and could be removed at any time.
After an hour of lacklustre speeches, the socialists asked for a recess to allow Borissov to make an appearance in the House. Following the recess, Speaker Tsveta Karayancheva said Borissov would not be able to attend citing diplomatic commitments (Borissov’s agenda for the day included meetings with the Turkish and Russian ambassadors, as well as calls with Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev and Serbian prime minister Ana Brnabic.)
Ninova said that Borissov’s “deafening” absence was a “self-confession of guilt for corruption”, but it lacked the bite of some of her other exchanges with Borissov.
Bulgaria’s parliamentary rules mandate that the vote on the motion of no confidence is to be held no sooner than 24 hours after the end of the debate. With the January 24 sitting of Parliament set to end before that deadline (due to parliamentary committee meetings in the afternoon), the vote will be held on the morning of January 25.
The opposition parties do not have the necessary votes to bring down Borissov’s cabinet and a number of observers have described the motion as a publicity stunt at a time when Bulgaria is under increased attention due to the start of its EU presidency term.
(Bulgaria’s National Assembly, photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)