After three hours of stormy debate, the national council of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) voted on February 17 that the party’s parliamentary group should leave the National Assembly.
The move was proposed by BSP leader Kornelia Ninova and accepted by the national council with 74 votes in favour, 33 against and three abstentions.
The BSP set various conditions to remain in the National Assembly, few if any likely to be agreed to by the ruling majority and other parties in Bulgaria’s Parliament. These include the election of a new Central Election Commission, a return to previous provisions on preferential voting, and a fresh debate on machine voting.
At the opening of the national council meeting, Ninova took members by surprise by proposing that the BSP parliamentary group should quit Parliament.
Ninova said that the BSP executive bureau could take the decision, but she wanted the national council to approve the move.
She cited the example of the amendments to the Electoral Code, approved shortly after midnight after a marathon 14-hour sitting on February 14.
Ninova, citing opinion polls, said that Bulgaria’s National Assembly had an approval rating of eight per cent.
Instead of coming up with genuine laws that would improve the lives of Bulgarian citizens, legislation was made “in the interests of companies and oligarchs, and behind-the-scenes party arrangements only in the interests of certain parties”.
Ninova’s call for a complete boycott of the National Assembly was a departure from moves by the BSP earlier in the life of the current Parliament, such as most of the parliamentary group leaving to “consult the people” while leaving 20 MPs to take part. The BSP has 79 seats in Bulgaria’s 240-seat legislature.
The previous semi-boycotts by the BSP of the current Parliament have tended to peter out, although on numerous occasions, the National Assembly has struggled – and sometimes failed – to secure a quorum to begin a day’s sitting.
The BSP national council decision comes a few months before Bulgaria’s May 26 European Parliament elections, and ahead of the mayoral and municipal council elections in Bulgaria in the autumn.
Among those who opposed the BSP parliamentary group leaving Parliament was Sergei Stanishev, formerly a long-time leader of the party and a former prime minister. Stanishev queried whether the move would lead to early parliamentary elections.
(Photo of Ninova: bsp.bg)