Bulgaria’s 49th National Assembly elects GERB-UDF’s Zhelyazkov as Speaker

On April 19, the third day of its first sitting, Bulgaria’s 49th National Assembly elected GERB-UDF Rossen Zheyazkov as Speaker.

The election of Zhelyazkov came a day after GERB-UDF, the current Parliament’s largest group, and We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria, the second largest group, announced that they had reached a deal by which the key posts of Speaker and chairperson of the legal affairs committee would be rotated between them, with a horizon of three months.

The vote in favour of Zhelyazkov was 136 in favour, with none against and 94 abstentions, with 230 MPs in the 240-seat House voting.

The votes for Zhelyazkov came from 67 GERB-UDF MPs, 58 WCC-DB MPs and 11 from Parliament’s smallest group, ITN.

Abstaining were 36 MPs from pro-Kremlin party Vuzrazhdane, 35 from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) and 23 from the Bulgarian Socialist Party.

Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Kornelia Ninova, speaking ahead of the vote, said that the use of a rotational principle regarding Parliament’s office-bearers was unconstitutional.

Referring to the description of the deal between GERB-UDF and WCC-DB on the office-bearers as a “gentleman’s agreement” Ninova derisively described the two coalitions as “a coalition of gentlemen”.

MRF leader Mustafa Karadayi also called into question the constitutionality of the rotational principle.

ITN MP Toshko Yordanov said that the party would vote in favour of Zhelyazkov, but also described the rotational principle as unconstitutional.

WCC co-leader Assen Vassilev told the House that in order to have a functioning Parliament, a Speaker had to be elected.

Ahead of the election of Zhelyazkov, a rival bid by Vuzrazhdane MP Petar Petrov was defeated.

The election of a Speaker not only opens the way for the election of a deputy presiding officer from each parliamentary group, but also the formal formation of those groups, which in turn will make it possible for the head of state to begin consultations ahead of handing over the first mandate to seek to form a government, which will go – as the constitution provides – to the largest group, GERB-UDF.

(Screenshot of Zhelyazkov via BNT)

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