Bulgaria: Vote of no confidence in government in disarray after GERB, MRF walkout

A scheduled vote on a motion of no confidence in Parliament in Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov’s government ended in disarray on November 16 after a walkout by Boiko Borissov’s GERB-UDF and Delyan Peevski’s Movement for Rights and Freedoms parliamentary groups.

GERB-UDF and the MRF are two of the groups that, along with We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria, voted the Denkov government into office in June 2023 and in October 2023, voted against the first motion of no confidence in the government.

The current, second, motion of no confidence was tabled by minority parties Vuzrazhdane, the Bulgarian Socialist Party and ITN on the grounds of what they called the government’s “inability to guarantee national security and the country’s defence”.

An acrimonious debate on the motion of no confidence lasted more than four hours on November 15, with GERB-UDF and the MRF not participating, though they signalled that they would not support the motion.

On November 16, the vote was held immediately after the defeat at first reading of legislation tabled by GERB-UDF’s Delyan Dobrev that, if approved, would scrap within three days Bulgaria’s temporary exemption for an EU ban on processing crude oil originating in Russia.

The derogation issue has, on the one side, GERB-UDF and the MRF, and on the other, WCC-DB, sharply at odds with each other, with the latter wanting it kept in place according to the existing schedule.

When it came to the vote on the motion, after the GERB-UDF and MRF groups staged their walkout, there were 66 votes to keep the government in place and 61 to oust it, with no abstentions.

BSP MP Georgi Svilenski called, on behalf of the party’s parliamentary group, for a re-vote, saying that the GERB-UDF and MRF groups should come back to vote for a government they had said they would keep in place for now.

This re-vote was granted. The rules of procedure of Bulgaria’s Parliament say that if a re-vote is called, the results of the first vote fall away.

After a 15-minute adjournment, there was a call to check whether the House had a quorum to proceed, which it did not.

This was followed, amid squabbles over procedure, to a further 10-minute adjournment, after which Speaker Rossen Zhelyazkov initiated a second check whether there was a quorum.

Sixty-three MPs registered as present, while Vuzrazhdane, BSP and ITN MPs, though in the House, did not. The 63 who registered as present were made up of 61 WCC-DB MPs and two from GERB-UDF – Zhelyazkov and Deputy Speaker Rositsa Kirova, who as presiding officers did not participate in the walkout.

With the House no longer quorate, Zhelyazkov adjourned the sitting. It was not immediately clear when the re-vote of the motion of no confidence will take place.

(Screenshot: Numerous empty seats in the National Assembly after the November 16 walkout)

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