Bulgarian MPs vote to oust Nikola Minchev as National Assembly Speaker

Bulgarian MPs voted on June 16 to dismiss Nikola Minchev as Speaker of Parliament, an outcome that cast doubts on the chances of Prime Minister Kiril Petkov’s government surviving the motion of no confidence that the National Assembly is set to debate and vote next week.

The motion passed with 125 votes in favour, 113 opposed and one abstention. Support for Minchev came from the three groups that remain in the government coalition – We Continue the Change (WCC), Democratic Bulgaria and Bulgarian Socialist Party, as well as five independent MPs who left cable television presenter Slavi Trifonov’s ITN party earlier this week.

ITN, which withdrew from the government coalition last week, initiated the motion to dismiss Minchev. Although ITN alone does not have enough MPs to put its motion on Parliament’s agenda, the proposal was backed by opposition parties.

The same opposition parties – former prime minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB-UDF, predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) and pro-Russian Vuzrazhdane – voted alongside ITN to oust Minchev as Speaker.

The formal grounds on which ITN asked for Minchev’s dismissal was the parliamentary hearing of outgoing Foreign Minister Teodora Genchovska on the topic of North Macedonia on June 15.

ITN requested a closed sitting, saying that Genchovska would refer to classified documents. Rather than grant the request, Minchev put it to a vote, with MPs voting in favour of keeping the sitting public.

But in the five hours of debate on the motion to dismiss Minchev as Speaker on June 16, the formal reason for the motion was mentioned only sporadically, the focus being instead on the Cabinet’s performance since taking office in December 2021.

Mutual recriminations of corruption and lying from both sides made up the bulk of the debate, with government coalition MPs, Cabinet ministers in attendance and opposition parties all using the occasion as a general rehearsal of the debate on the motion of no confidence.

GERB-UDF tabled the motion of no confidence in the government on June 15. Under Bulgaria’s parliamentary procedure rules, a debate on the motion must be held no sooner than three days and no later than seven days after it is tabled, followed by the vote itself after at least 24 hours have passed after the end of the debate.

The lengthy debate on Minchev’s dismissal delayed the discussion on the Budget revision package, the other item on the National Assembly’s agenda for the day. MPs passed the bills amending the health care and social security budgets late on June 15 and were due to discuss the central Budget bill on June 16.

Following Minchev’s dismissal, Deputy Speaker Miroslav Ivanov, also from WCC, will act as pro tempore Speaker until MPs elect a replacement. Media reports have claimed that ITN’s Iva Miteva, who was Speaker in the two short-lived parliaments last year, was being lined up for the position.

(Nikola Minchev photo: parliament.bg)

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