ITN party leader Slavi Trifonov said on June 8 that he was withdrawing his party from Bulgaria’s quadripartite governing coalition that has been in office since December 2021, citing the issues of North Macedonia and the Budget amendments.
Prime Minister Kiril Petkov told a subsequent news conference that it was better for a minority government to continue in office.
Trifonov’s statement came after ministers from his party walked out of a Cabinet meeting that was discussing the Budget amendments, which the Cabinet subsequently approved and are to be tabled in Parliament.
“As of today, I am withdrawing the ministers of [ITN] and I am putting an end to this coalition and this agony,” Trifonov said.
Trifonov said that there were two reasons the coalition was not working, North Macedonia “and the fact that there is no money in the country”.
He alleged that Petkov was pursuing a foreign policy other than that of Parliament, the Foreign Ministry and the policy stated at the Consultative Council on National Security.
“The Prime Minister has another Foreign Minister, not Foreign Minister Teodora Genchovska, but another named Vessela Tcherneva,” Trifonov said.
“Kiril Petkov has promised various leaders in Europe and the world that he will lift the veto on North Macedonia, although the vast majority of Bulgarian citizens want North Macedonia to start negotiations only when it fulfills the agreement between the two countries, signed in 2017,” he said.
Trifonov said that Petkov was violating the governing coalition agreement, calling this “national treason”.
The ITN leader hit out at the proposed Budget amendments, saying that they would increase inflation and devalue people’s money, and alleged that Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Assen Vassilev was spending billions recklessly.
Petkov, flanked by the rest of the leadership of the We Continue the Change party, told the news conference that last week, Regional Development Minister Grozdan Karadzhov (of the ITN party) had demanded an “unprecedented” increase in the ministry’s budget of 3.6 billion leva in the Budget amendments.
According to Petkov, Karadzhov had wanted the money to be paid to companies that Boiko Rashkov, currently Interior Minister, had been investigating for years over abuses.
Petkov hit out at ITN opposing the WCC proposal for Rashkov to become head of the anti-corruption commission, with – according to Petkov – ITN offering no reason for its opposition. He accused ITN of determinedly blocking reforms, including judicial reform.
“Today is a watershed day – you can be on the side of corruption, on the side of the mafia, on the side of people who use public resources to put it in their own pockets, or we can have a principled position in which every lev is reported,” Petkov said.
“We are ready for a minority government. We will not spend money without supervision,” he said.
“A minority government in this case is many times better than a government in which they are trying to get their hands on extra money, real reforms are being stopped, legislative reforms are being stopped and the biggest the most important organization for fighting corruption stops when we have such a candidate as Minister Rashkov,” Petkov said.
WCC co-leader Assen Vassilev said “Some of you have asked me in various interviews where the red line of We Continue the Change is, and we have made it clear that it is to prevent theft.
“We are here today precisely because of this red line,” Vassilev said.
“We may have differences over what is best to do or how best to help businesses and citizens and how best to spend the funds, but we cannot have differences over what should not be done, to allow thefts and the fact that effective control must be exercised over every lev of state money,” he said.
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