After three days and 11 rounds of voting, Bulgaria’s Parliament elects Speaker

On the third day of its first sitting, Bulgaria’s National Assembly elected its oldest member, GERB-UDF MP Vezhdi Rashidov, as its Speaker.

Rashidov’s election, with 139 votes in favour, 73 against and 27 abstentions, was the result of an agreement between GERB-UDF, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and Stefan Yanev’s Bulgaria Ascending party.

The Kiril Petkov-Assen Vassilev We Continue the Change (WCC) party and the Democratic Bulgaria coalition voted against, while the pro-Russian Vuzrazhdane party abstained.

The vote came close to four hours after the sitting resumed on October 21.

The day began with the latest vote after proceedings on Wednesday and Thursday failed to result in the election of a Speaker. In the Friday morning vote, neither MRF candidate Yordan Tsonev nor BSP candidate Kristian Vigenin won sufficient support to be elected.

Speaking before that morning vote, Vigenin said that the public on Wednesday had hated MPs for what was happening, and on Thursday had regarded MPs as a laughing stock. Tsonev told the House that the public regarded MPs as “crazy”.

An adjournment of 30 minutes granted after the morning vote stretched, as others had done on previous days, into several hours as talks on a solution were held.

When proceedings resumed at about 1pm, BSP leader Kornelia Ninova announced the deal on Rashidov, who – as the constitution provides – had been presiding over the sitting since it began, as the oldest MP.

Pointing to the fact that MPs had already voted 10 times in three days with no result, Ninova said: “We are killing parliamentary democracy and opening the way to unilateral rule”.

WCC asked for a 15-minute adjournment to consider its position on the Rashidov candidacy, but this was refused, after lengthy debate on the request, on procedural grounds.

Rashidov, who on October 20 declined to be nominated to be elected as Speaker, responded to his nomination on Friday by saying: “I have to put on the scale – which is more important – my personality or the expectations of Bulgarian society”.

He said if the sitting, and the bid to elect a Speaker, went into a fourth day, this would be “a crime”.

Speaking after his election, he told MPs: “No matter how short this Parliament is, colleagues, get to work because winter is coming and the people will be very humiliated and hungry”.

“Stay close to them and hear their pains because they will scream at some point. It is not fair to joke around with the people for three days. Parliament is not a satirical theatre. We are here only to work, argue and search for the right path and come up with a right solution,” Rashidov said.

“I will sacrifice part of my remaining years for the sake of the Bulgarian people,” he said.

The unprecedented marathon of the election of a Speaker over, the 48th National Assembly now had its way open to further parliamentary business, including the election of deputy presiding officers and the formal constituting of its seven parliamentary groups.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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