Bulgaria: Outgoing Cabinet minister, group of MPs quit Trifonov’s ITN party

Outgoing Sports Minister Radostin Vassilev and five members of Parliament told a news conference on June 13 that they were leaving Slavi Trifonov’s ITN party, five days after Trifonov announced ITN was withdrawing from Bulgaria’s ruling coalition.

Vassilev said that he had lost confidence in Trifonov, saying that the ITN leader was controlled by the interests of a group of people who “governed” him.

The “mafia” had broken into ITN, said Vassilev, who portrayed Trifonov as uninterested in the public, his Cabinet ministers and his MPs.

Vassilev said that he had heard about the announcement that ITN was leaving the ruling coalition only half an hour before Trifonov made it.

He said that in all the time he had been a Cabinet minister – the current government took office in mid-December 2021 – he had “never seen” Trifonov. Other MPs had not seen Trifonov for more than a year.

Vassilev said that he, along with MPs Ivo Atanassov, Nikolai Radulov, Svetlin Stoyanov, Georgi Georgiev and Deyan Petkov were leaving the ITN party.

Radostin Vassilev, one of four Cabinet ministers from the ITN quota, at the June 13 news conference announcing his departure, along with a group of MPs, from Trifonov’s party.

“I did not believe that I would say these words, but the moment has come when Bulgaria is more important to me than a group of people who most likely govern our leader,” Vassilev said.

“Obviously, the hopes that I had and those of most of the Bulgarians will remain unfulfilled,” he said.

“I say that with regret, because I have travelled and persuaded thousands of Bulgarians to support ITN. Unfortunately, however, the behaviour of Mr. Trifonov as sole proprietor of this party led to the fact that this party is self-destructing, and his recent actions lead to the deconstruction of the state,” Vassilev said.

He said that ITN was not a parliamentary project, but a “business project”.

The claim by Trifonov that ITN was leaving the ruling coalition over the North Macedonia issue was a “fake pretext,” Vassilev said. The real reason was that it was unable to implement financial projects, he alleged.

As The Sofia Globe reported, earlier on June 13, Trifonov said on Facebook that he had “information” that MPs would leave ITN, and he alleged that they were being bribed to do so.

“Most likely they were bought with money and positions. It will be seen who will become what,” Trifonov said.

Bulgarian National Radio said that on the evening of June 13, news conferences would be held by the Kiril Petkov-Assen Vassilev We Continue the Change party, and by ITN.

Bulgaria’s ruling coalition, which has changed from being quadripartite to tripartite following ITN’s departure, now may muster 109 out of the 240 seats in Bulgaria’s National Assembly, meaning that it needs 12 MPs to make up the shortfall to get the Budget amendments and other key legislation approved.

Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said last week that he was approaching MPs for support for the Budget amendments. WCC has insisted repeatedly that it is offering no incentives in the form of money or appointments, but is appealing to MPs’ sense of responsibility towards the state.

On June 13, WCC MP Atanas Mihnev was reported to have said that the party was approaching the number of MPs required to get legislation passed, but in the afternoon, these reports were denied by fellow WCC MP Iskren Mitev, who said that Mihnev’s words had been “distorted” in media reports.

(Screenshots from Bulgarian National Television’s live streaming of the news conference)

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