Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said on September 1 that the coalition government council would meet on September 3 to discuss nominations for new Cabinet ministers in the wake of three resignations, while he also hinted that further changes could follow.
The ministers of the interior, transport and regional development, all from Borissov’s centre-right GERB party, resigned at his request on August 31 over the Svoge bus crash six days earlier, in which 17 people died.
The announcement of the resignations led to Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov, co-leader of government minority partner the United Patriots – a grouping of far-right and nationalist parties – and leader of the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB) party, calling a meeting of the NFSB on September 1 to decide whether to continue as part of the governing coalition.
Simeonov’s move comes against a background of tensions within the United Patriots, especially between Simeonov and Ataka party leader and United Patriots parliamentary leader Volen Siderov. These tensions have called into question the future of the “Patriots” coalition, especially regarding the 2019 European Parliament and municipal elections in Bulgaria.
Of the three parties in the United Patriots, only Siderov openly endorsed the resignations of the three ministers on August 31.
Borissov, speaking at a meeting of the youth wing of his party, said that it was necessary to take political responsibility not only for the Svoge disaster but also for the actions of the police at the scene of an accident involving President Roumen Radev’s father Georgi.
An investigation was ordered by the Prosecutor-General and the Interior Ministry after news emerged – several days after the incident – of a collision between a car driven by Georgi Radev and a man in a motorised wheelchair. Georgi Radev denies culpability while reportedly, the man in the motorised wheelchair was penalised by police. Questions also have been raised about the alleged involvement of a local leader of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party – which backed President Radev’s election – in police handling of the incident.
Borissov said that the events of recent weeks, including the Svoge bus crash and the Georgi Radev case, had shown that it was time for changes to the government. Earlier, he criticised outgoing Interior Minister Valentin Radev over the handling of the Georgi Radev case, saying that it showed that Valentin Radev did not have control over “his people”.
In an apparent response to criticism from Simeonov that the departures of three ministers had not been co-ordinated with the coalition partners, Borissov said that the ministers had been from GERB’s quota and there was no reason why their resignations should have been agreed with the coalition partners.
The new Cabinet ministers would come from GERB, but their appointments would be thoroughly discussed in the coalition council, Borissov said.