Bulgarian government coalition council held amid infighting produces ‘coalition is united’ pledge
A four-hour meeting of the Bulgarian government’s coalition council on the evening of September 3 – held amid tensions over the conduct of government – ended with participants telling journalists that the coalition was united and there would not be early elections.
In spite of statements ahead of the council that there would be a discussion of changes to the Cabinet, a consequence of the August 31 resignations of three ministers, this did not happen. The issue was postponed to another meeting of the council, to be held on September 10.
The participants included GERB parliamentary leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov, and the United Patriots co-leaders Valeri Simeonov, Krassimir Karakachanov and Volen Siderov, the United Patriots parliamentary leader. Prime Minister and GERB leader Boiko Borissov was not present at the briefing after the meeting.
It was held against the background of clear differences within the United Patriots over the August 31 resignations of the interior, transport and regional development ministers, who submitted their resignations on the orders of Borissov as a response to the August 25 Svoge bus crash, which took 17 lives and left 21 people injured.
Simeonov sharply criticised Borissov over the resignations, which he said were unjustified. On September 2, Simeonov listed a string of departures in recent months from government posts, which he described as prompted only by Borissov’s prioritising of his personal approval rating.
Six hours before the council, Simeonov announced that his party, the National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria, had decided against quitting the government but wanted the style of governance improved. Simeonov also had accused Borissov of acting solely in a unilateral style.
After the meeting, Karakachanov – who had questioned the resignations but not Borissov’s prerogative to demand them – said: “The coalition is united and we are going forward in the name of statehood and Bulgaria”.
Ahead of the meeting, a photo had emerged of a smiling Karakachanov wearing a blue helmet. This symbolised the need for unity, he was reported as saying.
Siderov said that the most important thing that had to be decided at the September 3 meeting was whether to continue the government or whether to disperse and go to elections. The latter would mean that the country would be in chaos and uncertainty, he said.
“What is more important – staying in the government or throwing the state into chaos? And we thought the second was more harmful,” Siderov said.
The Ataka leader expressed the hope that problems within the coalition would be solved among themselves and not through the media.
Ahead of the meeting, Siderov had called for Simeonov to step down as deputy prime minister. Reportedly, Siderov described Simeonov as a “deserter”. Simeonov earlier spoke of the need to make changes in the United Patriots parliamentary group, of which Siderov is leader.
Tsvetanov said that coalition agreement between GERB and the United Patriots was still in force. He said that agreement had not been broken – a reference to Simeonov’s earlier complaint that Borissov had failed to consult his coalition partners on the resignations, as the agreement requires.
The next such resignation procedure, if any, would be the subject of consultations with the coalition partners, Tsvetanov said. The most important thing was the stability of the country, he said.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)