The October 19 first sitting of Bulgaria’s newly-elected National Assembly was adjourned to the next day after close to eight hours following the failure of repeated attempts to elect a Speaker.
Without the election of a Speaker, parliamentary business – including the election of deputy presiding officers and constituting standing committees to begin processing legislation – cannot proceed.
In essence, the standoff was between the 48th National Assembly’s largest group, former prime minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB-UDF coalition, and the second-largest, the Kiril Petkov-Assen Vassilev We Continue the Change (WCC) party.
At the close of four rounds of voting, neither the GERB-UDF candidate for Speaker, Rossen Zhelyazkov, nor WCC’s candidate, Nikola Minchev, could muster the 50+1 share of votes of those MPs present to be elected to the post.
Proceedings were complicated when initially, four groups out of the seven parliamentary groups – GERB-UDF, WCC, pro-Russian Vuzrazhdane and the Bulgarian Socialist Party – each named a candidate Speaker.
Zhelyazkov and Minchev went to a second round, with no decisive result.
After the first two rounds, matters were complicated further when the Movement for Rights and Freedoms put up its own candidate, bringing the total to five.
Zhelyazkov and Minchev again went to a second round, again with no decisive result.
There were frequent adjournments, with attempts to persuade one side or the other to back down or to come up with a deal. These proved fruitless.
Debate on the matter of the election of the Speaker largely was largely taken up by recriminations between GERB-UDF and WCC about which had been worse in running the country and its economy.
GERB-UDF hit out at WCC, saying that it was describing itself as an opposition party while simultaneously wanting to preside over Parliament.
It was agreed that the sitting would resume at 10am on October 20, with a renewed attempt to elect a Speaker.
Addressing the first sitting, President Roumen Radev expressed hope that the new National Assembly would “lead us out of the spiral of political instability”.
Speaking for the GERB-UDF group ahead of the abortive attempts to elect a Speaker, Dessislava Atanassova said that dialogue between the political forces and the finding of common ground in spite of their conflicting positions were the only chance for the 48th National Assembly not to fail.
WCC’s Petkov said that in this Parliament, the party – which in the previous Parliament was the mandate-holder for a government in which Petkov was Prime Minister – would pick up its work where it had been stopped, now “as a constructive, predictable opposition”.
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