Bulgaria’s National Assembly voted on May 5 to reject a bill amending the Political Parties Act, which would have cut the size of the state subsidy for political parties and coalitions that got more than one per cent of the vote at the most recent elections from eight leva (about 4.1 euro) to one lev.
The bill was tabled by cable television presenter Slavi Trifonov’s ITN political party, which finished second in the April 4 parliamentary elections.
The issue of state subsidies for political parties was one of the questions in the 2016 referendum initiated by Trifonov and his late-night talk-show. The plebiscite fell just short of the legal threshold that would have required Parliament to legislate its results into law.
After a failed appeal to recount and have the results validated, Trifonov announced in 2019 his intention to found a political party, whose main goal would be to ensure that the replies to the questions in the 2016 referendum would be transformed into law.
During the four-hours-long debate on May 5, ITN MPs repeatedly made reference to the overwhelming vote of support in the plebiscite to reduce the size of state subsidies for political parties, dismissing criticism that such a cut would make political parties overly-reliant on donations and membership fees as “hypocritical.”
Despite its pledge to support the bill, outgoing Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB spent much of the debate criticising the ITN proposal, but its MPs voted in favour in the end.
The bill appeared to pass initially, but did not gather enough support in the repeat vote – allowed under Bulgarian parliamentary procedures, usually on the grounds that not all MPs have had enough time to cast their votes.
Even had it passed, it was not certain that Parliament would have had enough time to vote on the bill at second reading, given that the 45th National Assembly is set to be prorogued next week, having sat for less than a month, after political parties failed in three attempts to form a government.
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