Bulgarian Parliament’s smallest group disintegrates amid acrimony

The parliamentary group of eccentric nationalist-populist party Velichie, which in June won seats in Bulgaria’s National Assembly for the first time and became its smallest group, has disintegrated.

Six of the 13 Velichie MPs have left the group, Deputy Speaker Rositsa Kirova announced in the House on July 5.

For a parliamentary group to be formed, it must have at least 10 MPs. Dropping to seven, the Velichie group ceased to officially exist.

This leaves Bulgaria’s 50th National Assembly with six groups, amid a continuing political crisis that most believe with result in failure to elect a government and lead to yet another early parliamentary election.

Velichie has produced a bizarre spectacle since its debut in Parliament, apparently abandoning its previous Russophile stance and being seized by infighting, notably between its two founders, Nikolai Markov and Ivelin Mihailov, the latter not an MP.

The acrimony has included disputes over moves allegedly in support of Parliament’s largest group, Boiko Borissov’s GERB-UDF.

Allegedly, Velichie MPs who cast a vote in support of GERB-UDF in the formation of a committee were kept locked in a barn for several hours by Mihailov, before being freed by Markov. At least, that is Markov’s account of the episode.

Against the background of speculation that Velichie would be enticed to supply the votes to get a GERB-UDF government elected, in the end the July 3 election saw Velichie among those voting against.

Even earlier, at the first sitting of the 50th National Assembly, Markov arrived late for the swearing-in ceremony, for reasons that he sought to explain but which remain unclear. Markov has made allegations of threats against him.

His estranged political partner, Mihailov – hitherto best known for the controversial Historical Park project in Varna and whose businesses are being scrutinised by various state bodies – has alleged that Markov threatened to “destroy” him.

Markov told Bulgarian National Radio on July 5: “My big mistake is Ivelin Mihailov, for which I apologise to all the people who believed the idea”.

A day earlier, Markov and Valentina Vassileva – who was, until this morning, a Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly from the now nonexistent Velichie quota – were the subject of a call emanating from Mihailov to step down from their posts.

Markov was leader of the parliamentary group, but quite who officially was the leader of the party was disputed. Amid an earlier dispute, Markov told Mihailov that the Historical Park founder and “ideologue” of Velichie was “just an ordinary member” of the party.

Before the June 9 early parliamentary elections, no polling agency has foreseen Velichie winning seats in the 50th National Assembly. Should matters result in the election in coming months of the 51st National Assembly, there is currently no poll to say whether the strife-torn party would again win seats.

(Archive photo of Markov and Mihailov via Velichie’s Facebook page)

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