Bulgaria’s National Assembly voted on March 8 to approve the first reading of legislative amendments writing off 8.2 million leva debts to the state owed by religious denominations, of which 8.1 million is owed by the office of the Chief Mufti, spiritual leader of the country’s Muslim minority.
The amendments were tabled by Tsvetan Tsvetanov, parliamentary leader of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party, and Mustafa Karadayi, leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF).
The amendments were approved with 104 votes in favour – from the groups of GERB and the MRF, 28 against and with six abstentions.
The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, which has alleged that the bill is part of a deal between GERB and the MRF that saw Karadayi’s group earlier this week back the overturning of President Roumen Radev’s veto of Electoral Code amendments, is boycotting the National Assembly and was not in the House.
Tsvetanov argued, as has the Chief Mufti’s office, that the amendments protect national security. Earlier this week, the spokesperson for the Chief Mufti’s office said that writing off the debts would a step against radicalisation of Bulgaria’s Muslim community.
The amendments were opposed by the minority partner in government, the United Patriots, a grouping of nationalist and far-right parties.
Pavel Shopov of Ataka, one of the parties in the United Patriots coalition, called for the bill to be withdrawn because it created a “vicious precedent” that anyone could from now on ask for such debt write-offs.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)