There will be no change of Cabinet ministers before the “rotation” happens in March 2024, Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov told reporters on November 12.
The Denkov government took office in June 2023 on the basis of a deal between We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria and Boiko Borissov’s GERB-UDF that after nine months, the post of Prime Minister will rotate to GERB-UDF’s Maria Gabriel, currently Deputy PM and Foreign Minister.
Recently, Borissov has been publicly criticising some ministers, in particular WCC-DB’s Assen Vassilev, holder of the finance portfolio.
On November 11, Borissov outlined demands for changes to Vassilev’s draft Budget, which has not yet been approved by the Cabinet, with the GERB leader hinting that if WCC-DB does not agree to his party’s demands, it would withdraw its support for the government.
Denkov said that the draft Budget would be tabled in Parliament in its current form and subsequently the MPs would decide what to vote for.
Regarding GERB’s attitude to the “assemblage” – a term being used to describe the de facto majority coalition between GERB-UDF and WCC-DB, Denkov said that he was observing “a transition from pre-election mobilising speeches to post-election psychotherapy”.
“For GERB, the loss of key cities is painful and at the moment there is a process of awareness, acceptance of the results and an attempt to skip to the next stage – Budget, constitutional changes,” he said.
Responding to claims made on November 11 by Borissov, Denkov said in a November 12 interview with Bulgarian National Radio that there was no danger of the Budget exceeding the limits of a three per cent deficit.
Denkov said that statements that there are no funds for the municipalities are false.
“Twelve billion leva is an unprecedented amount for capital expenditure,” he said.
“Mr. Borisov says many things that are not true.”
Denkov said that there were three circumstances under which the Cabinet would fall.
First was a failure to enact judicial reform, second if it became impossible to amend the constitution and if Parliament did not adopt a Budget for the government to implement and third, “if GERB says they don’t want this government”.
Commenting on Movement for Rights and Freedoms parliamentary leader Delyan Peevski, who near-daily makes statements about what he wants the government and other institutions to do, Denkov said: “For me, Delyan Peevski is playing a theatre in which our legislative program is actually implemented, and he is trying to act like a boss. I neither accept that, nor do I care. Nobody from Parliament is my boss”.
Denkov said that a mechanism for decision-making was lacking.
Obviously, it is easier for GERB to “hold this position of internal opposition,” Denkov said, adding that this was harmful for GERB itself.
There was a “dose of schizophrenia” in GERB’s attitude towards the government, Denkov said: “There are several names (in the Cabinet) that have been suggested by them. We have accepted them as joint ministers. Pretending that you have nothing to do with this cabinet is firstly untrue and secondly harmful.”
After five months, it is incorrect to ask for an 18-month programme to be completed, he said.
On the upcoming vote of no confidence related to national security and defence, Denkov said that delays of many years in defence policy are being made up at a rapid pace and “in the main this vote of no confidence is baseless”.
Denkov said that he had no problem with the intelligence and security services in general.
“I work well with some of them.”
He said that there was a “very clear reason” why he wanted to change the head of the State Agency for National Security (SANS), whose deputy had allowed himself to cause the whole crisis around the first round of the municipal elections.
A report by the SANS deputy head was key in the chain of events that led to the Central Election Commission (CEC) making the controversial decision to bar machine voting from the October 29 first round of Bulgaria’s municipal elections.
Denkov has requested President Roumen Radev to decree the dismissal of the head of SANS, Plamen Tonchev, but Radev – who appointed Tonchev in 2021 – has signalled that he will refuse to do so.
“Why is Mr. Tonchev so valuable to the president? The whole thesis that I can control the services with this change is absolutely false. The new head of SANS must be agreed with the president. I cannot be in charge of this service and the leader is not trusted. I expect the president to sign this request.”
Denkov said that the CEC had violated the Electoral Code and the Supreme Administrative Court then had to remedy the situation. He was referring to the court’s decision on October 30 opening the way for the use of machine voting in the second round of the local elections.
“It is not my job, given that the CEC is elected by the National Assembly, to want the CEC to be replaced. The CEC broke the law, resulted in us having over 500 000 invalid ballots. They are responsible for that,” he said.
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