Drama over claims of ITN MPs defecting to back Bulgaria’s ruling WCC

The political melodrama following the departure of Slavi Trifonov’s ITN party from Bulgaria’s ruling coalition took another turn on June 13 with reports of claims that the We Continue the Change (WCC) party was succeeding in persuading ITN MPs to defect to support it.

ITN leader Slavi Trifonov said that he had “information” that MPs from his party would leave the parliamentary group to support WCC co-leaders Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and Deputy PM and Finance Minister Assen Vassilev. He alleged that the defecting MPs were being bought.

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.

Parliament’s rules do not allow MPs to change parliamentary groups or found new ones. Those who leave a parliamentary group sit as independents.

On June 13, WCC MP Atanas Mihnev, who was speaking in the town of Stara Zagora, was reported to have said that the party had found part of the required number of MPs to secure a majority in the National Assembly.

Mihnev was reported as saying that WCC was not bargaining for MPs, but bargaining to continue the fight against corruption, for courage against the “mafia”.

Asked by reporters whether WCC already had the required 12 MPs, Mihnev reportedly said no, but that “we are moving in the direction of securing an absolute majority”.

ITN responded with a media statement saying that it had no idea whether claims that MPs would leave its group were correct.

“We don’t know if that’s the case. The next few days and hours will probably show it,” ITN said.

“So far, lawmakers have been loyal to the party’s leadership and especially to their constituents. We’ve all seen the Prime Minister address the group,” Trifonov’s party said.

There were claims in the Bulgarian media on June 13 that seven MPs from ITN would leave the group, and their departure was being organised by outgoing Sports Minister Radostin Vassilev, who opposed Trifonov’s announcement about ITN quitting the ruling coalition.

One of those named in the reports, ITN parliamentary group deputy leader Viktoria Vassileva, denied to Bulgarian National Radio that she intended to leave the group to support WCC.

Trifonov said in a Facebook post that he had received “information” that ITN MPs would leave the group to support Petkov and Vassilev: “Most likely they were bought with money and positions. It will be seen who will become what”.

“They need to look in the mirror in the morning. That’s life. The truth is that I feel ashamed of this whole story, but also relieved. Because in battle it is better to have friends by your shoulder than traitors,” Trifonov said.

WCC MP Iskren Mitev denied that the party had found some of the MPs to provide the majority to support the Budget update.

Mitev told reporters in Parliament that Mihnev’s words had been “distorted”.

“He repeated the words of what has been said before – that we are actually working in this direction or rather we hope to reach this type of solution to the problem,” Mitev said.

In another development, Parliament’s economic policy committee, meeting on June 13, approved the first reading of the Budget amendments.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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