Valeri Simeonov resigned as deputy prime minister in a personal capacity and has not withdrawn as a coalition partner, so no “shocks” are expected either in government minority partner the United Patriots or in the coalition government as a whole, Deputy Prime Minister and VMRO party leader Krassimir Karakachanov said on November 17.
Karakachanov, speaking in a television interview the morning after Simeonov’s resignation, said that it would be up to Simeonov to nominate his successor as deputy prime minister.
The United Patriots is a grouping of three of Bulgaria’s ultra-nationalist and far-right parties: Simeonov’s National Movement for the Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB), Karakachanov’s VMRO and Volen Siderov’s Ataka.
When centre-right GERB party leader Boiko Borissov’s third government came to power in May 2017, Simeonov and Karakachanov got posts as deputy prime ministers. Siderov heads the United Patriots parliamentary group. The United Patriots group is continually troubled by public infighting, in recent months in particular between Simeonov and Siderov.
Simeonov resigned a month to the day after causing national controversy by describing protesting mothers with children with disabilities “shrill women” with “supposedly ill children”. Under pressure from coalition partners, Simeonov apologised on October 24. Protests by the mothers demanding his resignation have been continuing.
Karakachanov said that Borissov had not asked Simeonov to resign. Simeonov had made his own decision because he did not want the government to be attacked, the VMRO leader said.
“He (Simeonov) called me yesterday at about 2pm to inform me what he had decided. Then we both went to the Prime Minister and informed him of his decision,” Karakachanov said.
Soon after Simeonov announced his resignation, Siderov was reported to have said that there had been no meeting of the United Patriots coalition council on the matter. The Ataka leader said that he had not been informed in advance that Simeonov was resigning.
Asked whether Valeriy Simeonov’s resignation is expected to overcome the social and political tensions that have arisen, Karakachanov replied that there is no problem with the quorum in the parliament when the budget is voted. Apart from that, he expected that the tension between the mothers and Simeonov would be quenched by his resignation.
Karakachanov said that Simeonov would return to the National Assembly as an MP.
Asked if Siderov had been notified about Simeonov’s decision to resign, Karakachanov said that Simeonov had decided whom to call.
“Of the three coalition leaders, one was in Parliament, now two will be in Parliament. I hope that this will stabilise and strengthen the work of the parliamentary group. We have not discussed changes in the leadership of the parliamentary group,” Karakachanov said.
He said that the matter of who would be the new deputy prime minister was not for him or VMRO to decide. “We will wait for Simeonov to propose something or to discuss it all together in the coalition. Most likely this will happen next week when his resignation is approved in Parliament,” Karakachanov said.