Outraged crowds surrounded Bulgaria’s Parliament on the evening of June 16 after opposition parties, now including former ruling coalition partner ITN, voted to oust Nikola Minchev as Speaker of the National Assembly, as a prelude to seeking to vote the government out of office.
Emotions ran high among the throng, numbering well more than a thousand, as they protested against the threat of the coalition government formed in December last year on the promise of sweeping reforms being now at risk of being brought down by a working majority of establishment opposition parties and an extremist group, bolstered by the votes of ITN after its fracturing of the ruling majority.
The protests came in the hours after Minchev was unseated, and as Parliament voted on the first reading of the government’s Budget amendments.
Prime Minister Kiril Petkov was applauded by the crowd as he emerged, megaphone in hand atop a wall outside Parliament, to tell the crowd that while “we managed to win the election” those working behind the scenes were seeking to scupper reform efforts.
“Mafia out!” chanted the crowd, along with chants of “solidarity”.
Bulgaria had every chance to be a European, normal, civilised country, Petkov said.
“The change has come, they can’t send us back,” said Petkov, who along with deputy PM and Finance Minister Assen Vassilev is co-leader of the We Continue the Change (WCC) party, founded in late 2021 on the notion of pushing forward with changes begun by a caretaker cabinet in which Petkov and Vassilev served last year.
“We will win back the state. While we are right here, we still have a pulse, we will not hand over Bulgaria to these mobsters,” Petkov said.
He expressed his conviction that behind Boiko Borissov’s GERB, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, pro-Kremlin minority party Vuzrazhdane and Slavi Trifonov’s ITN were the same behind-the-scenes operators.
Minchev told the crowd: “What you are doing here at the moment gives us all the strength, and me specifically, that we will return, stronger, we will not give up, we don’t even think about doing so”.
Deputy Prime Minister Kornelia Ninova, leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, a partner in the current governing coalition, also took to the podium to speak, but was booed by some in the crowd, though individual Cabinet ministers from WCC had been roundly applauded.
At one point, Toshko Yordanov, parliamentary leader of Trifonov’s ITN, also emerged, after jeering cries from the crowd urged him to come out. When he did so, bottles of mineral water were pelted in his direction.
An appearance near the exit from the parliamentary building by Vuzrazhdane leader Kostadin Kostadinov – who earlier on June 16 said that an election this year would represent for his party a referendum on rejecting the euro and on Bulgaria quitting Nato – resulted in jeers, epithets and cries of “This is not Moscow”.
It was a combination on June 16 of the votes of GERB, the MRF, ITN and Vuzrazhdane that led to Minchev being unseated, with – barring a significant if improbable turnaround – a result of that kind likely to lead to Petkov’s now-minority government losing a voting of no confidence next week.
Petkov and his coalition government have reiterated that plunging Bulgaria into further political uncertainty, two months of a caretaker administration without a sitting Parliament, would derail not only crucial reforms sought by the public, but also legislative changes vital to receiving more than six billion euro in EU Recovery and Sustainability funds.
Former rulers, the GERB-UDF coalition, were keen to press the accelerator on getting the Petkov government out of office.
GERB-UDF parliamentary leader Dessislava Atanassova told reporters in Parliament that the group wanted the no-confidence debate held on Sunday June 19.
Parliamentary rules require that a vote of no confidence be held no less than 24 hours after the conclusion of debate on the motion, meaning that if GERB-UDF gets its way, such a vote would be held on Tuesday June 21.
(Photos: The Sofia Globe)
Please support The Sofia Globe by clicking on the orange button below to sign up to become a patron on patreon.com.
For as little as three euro a month or the equivalent in other currencies, becoming a patron means supporting independent journalism, and getting access to exclusive content: