Two of the parties in the United Patriots, the ultra-nationalist grouping that is the minority partner in Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s coalition government, have voted to expel the third, Volen Siderov’s Ataka party.
The move is seen as effectively spelling the end of the United Patriots coalition.
This emerged on July 25, a day after a United Patriots coalition council meeting – the first in many months – lasted a mere two minutes before breaking up in the acrimony that long since has come to characterise the fractious grouping.
The Wednesday meeting collapsed after Siderov insisted that it be held in the presence of the media. The other two parties refused.
A meeting on Thursday of the United Patriots, held without Ataka, voted to expel Siderov, as well as Ataka MPs Dessislav Chukulov and Pavel Shopov, from the group.
The decision came 15 days after the two parties – Valeri Simeonov’s National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB) and Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov’s VMRO – voted to oust Siderov as parliamentary leader of the United Patriots.
The United Patriots became the minority partner in government in May 2017, with a coalition agreement that included a commitment between it and Borissov’s GERB party that Borissov’s third government would serve a full four-year term.
On the late afternoon of July 25, NFSB MP Slavcho Atanassov told a local television station that the United Patriots coalition is “officially disbanded”.
Atanassov said that it was unclear whether the three parties will sign individual agreements with GERB. He indicated that the NFSB and VMRO would continue to work together.
“It came to a decision that we cannot go on like this and practically from today we are dividing. The separation with Ataka is already a fact,” Atanassov said.
Earlier on July 25, Karakachanov said that the existence of the United Patriots coalition was in question.
The meeting of the coalition council on Thursday was reported to have voted 20 in favour, none against and with no abstentions, to expel Ataka.
Karakachanov said that for more than a year, the United Patriots coalition had not been functioning.
He accused Ataka of “systematic sabotage of group decisions, and personal attacks” against himself and Simeonov.
“It’s all over,” Karakachanov said. “Mr Siderov and his colleagues from Ataka do not want to work with NFSB and VMRO, let them swim freely in the ocean.”
Karakachanov said that the decision did not end the majority in the National Assembly and nor did it put the government’s term in office in jeopardy.
While, after previous rivalry among themselves, the three parties stood together in Bulgaria’s 2017 early parliamentary elections – together gaining enough votes to place them to become a coalition government partner – subsequent infighting saw them stand individually in the country’s May 2019 European Parliament elections. VMRO won two of Bulgaria’s 17 MEP seats, while neither of the other two parties won any seats.