Delyan Dobrev became on April 9 the latest figure from Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s ruling majority to step down from his post when he submitted his resignation as an MP following reports about property deals involving him and his family.
In a statement, Borissov’s GERB party quoted Dobrev as dismissing the reports as “fake news” but saying that this was the last straw and “I do not want my name, and that of GERB, to be stained anymore”.
Dobrev was quoted as saying that his decision to resign as an MP was a personal one and had been made in solidarity with his colleagues who had “complied with GERB’s moral standards” and resigned their posts even only if coming under suspicion.
It is not the first time that Dobrev, who was economy, energy and tourism minister in the first Borissov government that took office in 2009, has submitted his resignation as an MP.
In 2017, he submitted his resignation from Parliament after coming under sustained attack from the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party over alleged favouritism in appointments in Haskovo municipality. On October 4, the National Assembly voted to reject his resignation.
This rejection was taken to the Constitutional Court, which in January 2018 ruled – by seven to four – that the National Assembly had erred in refusing Dobrev’s resignation, but did not bar him from continuing as a member of Parliament.
On April 6 2019, the website bivol.bg (which has no connection to The Sofia Globe’s Alex Bivol) alleged that Dobrev’s mother, his cousin Rositsa Gargova and a close friend, Haskovo deputy mayor Evgeni Konsulov, had bought homes in newly-constructed buildings in Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia at a price of 270 euro a sq m.
The saga of allegations about purchases of property at below-market prices has rocked Borissov’s GERB party and led to official investigations and resignations.
Among the first to resign were the Justice Minister, two deputy ministers and Tsvetan Tsvetanov, who resigned as an MP and thus as head of the GERB parliamentary group, though he retained his party posts as deputy leader and European Parliament election campaign chief. All those named in the allegations so far have denied wrongdoing.
The controversy has extended to the head of Bulgaria’s anti-corruption commission, the body to which the allegations have been referred. Plamen Georgiev took leave after reports raised issues related to his property ownership. Georgiev also denies wrongdoing.
Earlier on April 9, before the GERB statement that Dobrev was submitting his resignation as an MP, the government information service said that the deputy governor of the district of Sofia, Tomi Nikolov, had resigned.
Nikolov resigned because of “media reports and the need to clarify them”. Borissov had accepted the resignation, the government statement said. The reports had alleged that Nikolov had been involved in a low-price property purchase in a village and had built on the land unlawfully.
A recent poll by Alpha Research said that the approval ratings of Borissov’s government and the GERB party had been damaged by the apartments controversy.
For GERB, there was an odd twist on April 9 when the party issued a statement saying that Panayot Reyzi, mayor of Sozopol, had resigned as mayor and as a member of GERB over allegations of misspending two million leva of municipal money. A few hours later, Reyzi told local media that he had resigned as the Sozopol leader of GERB and from the party, but had not resigned as mayor.