Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said on June 12 that Bisser Petkov would stay on as Labour and Social Policy Minister, even though Borissov had accepted Petkov’s resignation the day before.
Petkov submitted his resignation, telling Borissov that he could not deal with the tensions raised by the latest in a succession of protests by parents of children with disabilities. The protesters, who want a series of reforms to treatment of people with disabilities, have held demonstrations and put up tent camps in Sofia and other cities in Bulgaria.
The day after Petkov’s resignation, several voices – including from among the protesters – were raised against it.
Borissov, speaking to reporters during a visit to Turkey, “I am leaving him to continue with his commitments, let’s see if the tent camp will continue.”.
“If this is the minister they like, I am rejecting the resignation. I am leaving him in place as a minister. Will the tent camps remain in place?” Borissov said.
He said that Petkov was “doing well” but added that “the fact is, in this area, there is tent camp after tent camp – I can’t stand to see that. I’ll give him a deadline, and we shall see in coming days”.
Protesting parents of children with disabilities reacted with surprise to the resignation of Petkov, saying that they wanted reforms, not a resignation.
On June 12, Bulgarian National Television reported that the protesters were surprised by Petkov’s resignation. They said that they had received assurances that there would be a new law, and they had been prepared to end the tent camp where they had been protesting.
A woman identified only as “Olga”, mother of a daughter with disabilities, said that Petkov had been the first Social Policy Minister – facing the seventh in a succession of protests – who had been open to dialogue and who had received their demands graciously.
“I do not know if he may return as Social Policy Minister but in principle, we stand behind him,” said Olga, who said that she did not understand why he had resigned. “The protests will continue,” she said.
Bulgaria’s two major trade union federations, the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions and Podkrepa, said on June 12 that they had written to Borissov asking him to reconsider his acceptance of Petkov’s resignation.
Deputy Social Policy Minister Sultanka Petrova said that Petkov’s resignation was a big surprise. She described him as an extremely moral and responsible person who had done a lot of good, including for children with disabilities.
Petkov joined Borissov’s third government when it was formed in May 2017. Petkov was appointed on the recommendation of the United Patriots, the grouping that is the minority partner in the Cabinet.
United Patriots co-leader Valeri Simeonov said on June 12 that Petkov’s resignation was untimely and unnecessary. Simeonov described Petkov as one of the best professionals.
Petkov’s resignation was the third to be submitted to Borissov since he became Bulgaria’s Prime Minister for the third time in May 2017. Nikolai Petrov stepped down in October 2017 as health minister, to be replaced by Kiril Ananiev.
In January 2018, Temenuzhka Petkova submitted her resignation as Energy Minister over the CEZ deal. Borissov did not table the application to resign in the National Assembly and Petkova remains in office.