MPs from the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) boycotting sittings of Parliament will continue to receive pay, National Assembly Speaker Tsveta Karayancheva told reporters on February 22.
Karayancheva was responding to a letter from BSP leader Kornelia Ninova the day before, that said that the party’s MPs would not be paid salaries for the time they did not attend sittings, and nor would they draw travel allowances or use official cars to travel to their electoral districts.
The Speaker said that Ninova’s letter amounted to no more than a declaration, because the current rules of the National Assembly do not allow such deductions of salaries.
So far, no parliamentary group had tabled a proposal to change these rules, Karayancheva said.
She said that in spite of what Ninova said, 16 had gone on official trips and 19 had taken per diem daily allowances “so if she (Ninova) cannot control her parliamentary group, that is her problem”.
In a letter replying to Ninova, Karayancheva said that it was the right of an MP to decide to account for costs when using official cars or on official business abroad. If such costs are not accounted for and submitted, they would not be paid.
Karayancheva said that the Speaker was not entitled to unilaterally change the rules.
Though absenting themselves from activities such as committee meetings that attract additional allowances, the BSP MPs will continue to get the basic salary of a Bulgarian MP, which amounts to about 2000 leva (about 1000 euro) a month.
After the BSP national council voted on February 17 for the party’s parliamentary group to boycott sittings of Parliament, both Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party and ruling coalition minority partner the United Patriots have spoken of changing the rules to allow the suspension of salaries in the event of absence of MPs from sittings.
The BSP said earlier that it would return to the National Assembly on conditions including the election of a new Central Election Commission, and the repeal of controversial amendments to the Electoral Code.
GERB has said that it would reverse some of the Electoral Code amendments, restoring preferential voting, and would agree to the election of a new CEC. The BSP has not returned to Parliament.
The Electoral Code controversy is taking place against the background of the fact that on May 26, Bulgarians head to the ballot booths to vote in the country’s election of its 17 members of the European Parliament.
(Photo of the February 20 sitting of the National Assembly, with the empty benches of the opposition BSP on the right: parliament.bg)