Bulgaria’s 48th National Assembly is to hold its first sitting at 9am on October 19, with its order of business including several speeches and an attempt to elect a Speaker.
There are to be speeches by head of state President Roumen Radev, by Vezhdi Rashidov – at 70, the oldest member of this Parliament, required by the constitution to preside over the sitting pending the election of a Speaker – and by the leaders of the seven parliamentary groups.
Four parliamentary groups have said that they will nominate a Speaker.
The GERB-UDF coalition, the largest group, is nominating former transport minister Rossen Zhelyazkov, We Continue the Change (WCC) is nominating former Speaker Nikola Minchev, the Bulgarian Socialist Party has named four-time Deputy Speaker Kristian Vigenin and pro-Russian Vuzhrazhdane has named Petar Petrov.
Also to be elected are the Deputy Speakers. Each parliamentary group is entitled to one.
Radev has said that after parliamentary groups are formally constituted, he will begin the process of consultations with the groups and then the offering of the first mandate to seek to come up with a proposed government to be put to the National Assembly for approval.
The first mandate will go to GERB-UDF. The coalition’s leader, Boiko Borissov, who has declined to sit as an MP, said on October 18 that his group was prepared to make compromises “in the name of the state” to get a government formed, but expected others also to be prepared to make compromises.
Borissov, who weeks ago spoke of seeking to form a “Euro-Atlantic coalition”, now spoke of a “coalition of national consensus”.
He said that if a minority government proposed by his group with the first mandate failed to win endorsement, neither would won proposed with the second mandate, which would go to the National Assembly’s second-largest group, WCC.
Most groups have rejected the idea of negotiations with GERB-UDF or supporting a government proposed by the group.
After the October 2 early parliamentary elections – the fourth time in two years that Bulgaria elected a legislature – Borissov said that he was proposing “working groups” on government formation talks, moderated by former President Rossen Plevneliev and by former foreign minister Solomon Passi.
Only two groups have agreed to meet Plevneliev and Passi – the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, and former caretaker prime minister Stefan Yanev’s Bulgaria Ascending, the latter the smallest group in the new legislature.
On the legislative front, the 48th National Assembly will be asked to approve a raft of legislation needed to be passed to receive the first funding for Bulgaria under the EU’s Recovery and Sustainability Plan. Doubts have been cast on whether MPs will be able to process the legislation in time for the transfer to proceed.
The Democratic Bulgaria coalition has said that it will ask Parliament to approve the supply of weaponry to Ukraine, a move that if approved would go further than the parliamentary decision earlier this year only to provide “military-technical assistance”.
Radev and caretaker Defence Minister Dimitar Stoyanov have derided the idea of Bulgaria supplying weaponry to Ukraine, arguing that doing so would denude Bulgaria of its own.
Ahead of the October 19 first sitting, the majority of parliamentary groups agreed that invitations to the sitting should not be extended to the Russian and Belarusian ambassadors.
Vuzrazhdane said last week that it was “considering” inviting the Russian and Belarusian envoys to attend the first sitting as part of its quota of guests.
Consensus eluded the groups on whether to invite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to deliver a video address to the first sitting. It is being left to a later meeting of the council of presiding officers and leaders of parliamentary groups to decide whether and when to ask Zelenskyy to address Bulgaria’s Parliament.
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