Bulgaria’s 49th National Assembly’s first sitting: Declarations and a stand-off over Speaker

Ten days after being elected, Bulgaria’s 49th National Assembly held its first sitting on April 12, with a succession of speeches and signs of a stand-off over the election of a Speaker, reminiscent of the situation that dogged the first days of the 48th National Assembly.

Head of state President Roumen Radev told the first sitting: “We all expect that (the newly-elected Parliament) will make long-awaited decisions not only about the way out of the political crisis, but also about defending the European perspective of the country and the future democratic society”.

Radev named the adoption of a Budget as the primary task of this Parliament.

Dessislava Atanassova of GERB-UDF, the largest parliamentary group, said that Bulgaria’s electorate had “shown unequivocally that the political crisis cannot be solved by only one formation, party or coalition”.

Atanassova said that the only way out of the situation was “if, with mutual respect, acceptable compromises are reached between the parties, agreement on the strategically important issues for the country and an effective restoration of political dialogue.

“Anyone who does not comply with these results will lose not only voters, but also a prospect for long-term positive participation in the political and public life of the country,” she said.

The day before the first sitting, GERB-UDF leader Boiko Borissov repeated his stated insistence that there should be a deal on a government between his group and the second-largest, We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria (WCC-DB).

“The only stable long-term government is between the two grand coalitions,” Borissov told the first meeting of the GERB-UDF parliamentary group on April 11.

However, WCC-DB has ruled out supporting a government nominated by GERB-UDF or with that group’s participation in it.

WCC-DB co-leader Kiril Petkov told the first sitting that it was “high time, after so many unsuccessful attempts, for the Bulgarian Parliament to finally work and to start solving the real problems of the people with a real legislative programme that reflects the truly important priorities for Bulgaria”.

Kostadin Kostadinov, leader of the third-largest parliamentary group, Vuzrazhdane, said: “The voters sent us to Parliament to preserve Bulgaria’s financial independence, to prevent the country from being drawn into the war in Ukraine, to renegotiate our relations with the EU, to prevent the country from going bankrupt and to always and everywhere protect the Bulgarian national interest”.

Vuzrazhdane was ready to discuss these priorities with the other political forces, Kostadinov said.

Movement for Rights and Freedoms leader Mustafa Karadayi repeated the party’s pre-election mantra about “reason and dialogue” to resolve the political crisis.

Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Kornelia Ninova said that it was within the plenary hall that the solution to the country’s problems should be found, while Ivailo Vulchev, an MP for Parliament’s smallest group, ITN, said: “We of ITN are in this National Assembly because we can bear responsibility. This obliges us to be constructive and do everything possible to make Parliament work”.

The speeches were followed by an attempt to elect a Speaker, with GERB-UDF nominating Rossen Zhelyazkov and Vuzrazhane nominating Petar Petrov. Neither won the required number of votes to be elected.

WCC-DB co-leader Assen Vassilev told the House that similar to the practice of the European Parliament, the post of Speaker should be held on a rotating basis, alternating between GERB-UDF and WCC-DB.

After the impasse over the election of a Speaker became clear, an adjournment was called. After a brief resumption, another adjournment followed, and the sitting is to continue on April 13.

Radev said that if Parliament did not elect a Speaker, this would block the process of consultations with parliamentary groups and the handing over of a mandate to seek to form a government.

(In line with the constitution, pending the election of a Speaker the first sitting of the current National Assembly was presided over by the oldest MP, in this case Vezhdi Rashidov of GERB-UDF. Photo: parliament.bg)

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