Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s Cabinet has retracted its approval of the Istanbul Convention and withdrawn its request to Parliament to approve the convention.
The decision to retract the approval which the Cabinet gave in January 2018 was taken at a regular meeting on March 7, with Borissov citing the need to calm the public, and the negative reactions from his government coalition partners, the Orthodox Church and the Chief Mufti as motivations for cancelling approval of the Convention.
The Istanbul Convention is an international instrument directed against domestic violence, but in Bulgaria has been the target of an active negative campaign by conservative forces that claim it promotes the concept of a “third gender”.
Among the voices that have spoken in favour of the adoption of the Convention have been intellectuals who signed a petition backing it, and a statement of support of approval of the Convention that was issued by the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom”.
Borissov said that the Istanbul Convention would be considered by the Constitutional Court, and after that there could be a calm debate about it. He said that his government had been “unfairly accused” over the issue of the Convention.
The government was a democratically-elected one and had to heed the voice of the people, Borissov said. Some polling agencies in Bulgaria claimed that up to 70 per cent of Bulgarians did not want the Istanbul Convention adopted.
A March 7 sitting of Bulgaria’s 240-seat National Assembly rejected, with 121 votes against, a proposal by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party to hold a national referendum on the Convention. In spite of internal differences on the issue, the BSP earlier decided to take a stance against approval of the Istanbul Convention.