Bulgaria’s Parliament ousts GERB-UDF’s Zhelyazkov as Speaker

Bulgaria’s National Assembly voted on April 25 to oust Rossen Zhelyazkov of Boiko Borissov’s GERB-UDF coalition as Speaker.

The vote was 129 in favour and 103 against, with the decision approved with the backing of We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria, Vuzrazhdane, the Bulgarian Socialist Party and ITN, and with GERB-UDF and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms opposed.

Opening debate, Miroslav Ivanov of WCC-DB cited the grounds for seeking Zhelyazkov’s ouster as his decision to allow a vote on the resignation of the head of the National Health Insurance Fund to proceed even though the resignation had been withdrawn, as well as a number of other procedural decisions by Zhelyazkov that WCC-DB saw as incorrect.

GERB-UDF MP Toma Bikov said that he had expected the charges against Zhelyazkov to be more serious, and described the draft decision as motivated by political rather than administrative concerns.

Bikov said that he would not comment on the motives, saying that these had “nothing to do with the real motives”.

The backers of the decision would face long political consequences, he said.

He said that those who had backed the amendments to the constitution had enabled Parliament to continue sitting even while a caretaker government was in place, and yet – on the eve of Easter holidays and the official election campaign period – now there was a move to unseat the Speaker.

Zhelyazkov was elected Speaker in a 2023 deal that saw GERB-UDF get the post of Parliament’s principal presiding officer, on the understanding that after nine months, the post would “rotate” to WCC-DB. In turn, as part of the same deal, Nikolai Denkov of WCC-DB became Prime Minister, on the understanding that after nine months, the post would “rotate” to GERB-UDF’s Maria Gabriel.

Amid recriminations between GERB-UDF and WCC-DB, the “rotation” did not happen, and with attempts having failed to form a new government after the March 5 resignation of Denkov, Bulgaria was propelled to holding early parliamentary elections on June 9, along with scheduled regular European Parliament elections.

WCC-DB’s Assen Vassilev told the House that while Denkov had resigned “on time” on March 5, Zhelyazkov had not, and, rhetorically, he asked why.

GERB-UDF has long accused WCC-DB and Denkov as having acted unilaterally on Denkov’s resignation.

Deputy Speaker Rositsa Kirova of GERB-UDF, to whom Zhelyazkov ceded the chair while debate was proceeding, invited Zhelyazkov to address the House after the close of debate, which he did, expressing thanks to those who had supported him and to Parliament’s administrative staff.

Kirova, apparently moved by Zhelyazkov’s brief address, was seen wiping away tears and struggling to contain her emotions as she called the vote. After the outcome, Zhelyazkov quit his chair and the House, with MPs from GERB-UDF and the MRF giving him a standing ovation.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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