Category Archives: Bulgaria


Bulgaria – New govt approved and a new period of cohabitation? (Amended)

In Bulgaria a new government has been approved.

The general election earlier this month led to the incumbent GERB government receiving the highest number of seats of any party in the legislature – 97/240. However, only four parties were returned to parliament and none of the other three were willing either to form a coalition with GERB or to support a minority GERB government in parliament.

The mandate to form a government, therefore, moved to the second largest party, the BSP. The BSP proposed a minority government containing three MRF ministers and a number of ‘experts’. The BSP had the support of 84 deputies. The MRF party has 36 seats. So, the government has the support of 120 seats in the 240-seat legislature.

In this context, the proposed minority government was presented to the Bulgarian parliament today. There were two issues. The first was whether there would be a quorum to allow a vote on the new government. The constitution requires at least 121 deputies to be present for a quorum. GERB announced yesterday that they would not be present. This meant that whether or not there could be a vote on the government was a function whether the fourth party in parliament, the nationalist Ataka party with its 23 deputies, would turn up to vote. If they did not, then there would be no vote on the government. In the end, one Ataka deputy was present, ensuring a quorum.

The second issue was then the vote on the proposed government. At this point, GERB deputies did take their seats. The subsequent vote was 119 in favour and 98 against with Ataka abstaining. The political effect of GERB’s position was to allow it claim that the socialist BSP-led government was only voted in with the support of the far-right, nationalist Ataka party.

Whatever the politics of the situation, the net result is that Bulgaria has a new government. However, it is a cohabitation government, or at least it might be classed as such. This is because President Rosen Plevneliev of GERB took office in January 2012 and GERB is not represented in government. That said, PM Plamen Oresharski is an independent, even though he is associated with the BSP. Therefore, even though the president’s party is not in government, the PM is not formally from a party opposed to the president. This does beg the question of whether this should be classed as a ‘true’ period of cohabitation. For now, I have not updated the list of cohabitations in Bulgaria.

In any case, the current government faces a dual dilemma. It does not have a majority in parliament. Instead, it will rely both on the continuing support of MRF and the continuing abstention of Ataka. Even if it maintains its current position in parliament, the BSP government still runs the risk of its legislation being vetoed by the president.

In this context, the chances of the legislature lasting a full five-fouryear term are probably small.

Bulgaria – Parliamentary election

Bulgaria held a snap parliamentary election yesterday. The election was due to be held in July, but was called early by PM Boyko Borisov following protests. PM Borisov headed a single-party GERB government.

The results are as follows.

  • GERB – 30.74% (-9), 90 seats (-19)
  • Socialist Party – 27.06% (+9.3), 86 seats (+46)
  • Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) – 10.46% (-3.5), 33 seats (-4)
  • Ataka – 7.39% (-2), 23 seats (+2)

No other party crossed the 5% threshold. So, GERB remain the largest party but they have lost support.

Previously, GERB had been in power as a minority government. The three other parties have ruled out joining a coalition with them. This means either another minority GERB government, which will be more difficult this time, or a coalition between the Socialists and the DPS. In this event, there would be a period of cohabitation.

Bulgaria – A new presidential power?

Bulgaria has recently been debating the appointment of judges to the Constitutional Court.

Art. 147 of the Constitution states: “The Constitutional Court shall consist of 12 judges, one-third of whom shall be elected by the National Assembly, one-third shall be appointed by the President, and one-third shall be elected by a joint meeting of the judges of the Supreme Court of Cassation and the Supreme Administrative Court.” In addition, Art. 6 of the Constitutional Court Act states: “(1) The Constitutional Court justices shall assume their duties upon taking the following oath of office: ‘In assuming my duties as a justice of the Constitutional Court, I do solemnly swear to observe faithfully my duties as assigned to me by the Constitution and the Constitutional Court Act. I have sworn.’ (2) Each justice shall take the oath of office not later than one month after his appointment or choosing in the presence of the Chairman of the National Assembly, the President and the Chairmen of Supreme Court of Appeals and the Supreme Administrative Court.”

Last week, three new appointments were due to be made. The nominees from the judiciary and president each took their oaths and were approved. However, when the time came for the nominee from the legislature to take her oath, President Rosen Plevneliev left the room. This meant that the oath could not be taken in front of him and, therefore, the judge’s appointment was not made.

President Plevneliev was opposed to the appointment of Veneta Markovska. She has been the subject of graft allegations. However, in the context of this blog, what is interesting is the expression of presidential power. The power to veto the appointment of a Supreme Court nominee is not in the Constitution and it is not explicitly present in the Constitutional Court Act. However, the President’s interpretation of the Act has, seemingly, granted him a new power.

The political reaction to the President’s veto has been interesting. Parliament has immediately started the selection process for a new nominee. Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has also applauded President Plevneliev’s action. So, there is a sense that the President was acting with the support of the political community.

However, it is interesting to speculate whether there would have been the same reaction had the previous president acted similarly. Prior to President Plevneliev’s election, there was a period of cohabitation. There could have been a different political reaction had the then president tried to exercise a veto power in this way.

It is also interesting to speculate whether President Plevneliev’s action sets a precedent. Perhaps in the future the Chairman of the National Assembly will walk out when the president’s nominee comes to take the oath. During a period of cohabitation, President Plevneliev’s precedent could make the process of government very difficult indeed.

Bulgaria – Presidential veto

One of the features of Bulgaria’s recent period of cohabitation between the Socialist President, Georgi Parvanov, and the GERB government of Boyko Borisov was the relatively high number of presidential vetoes. The victory of GERB president Rosen Plevneliev in the election last year and his inauguration in January marked the end of the period of cohabitation. However, President Plevneliev has now issued his first two vetoes and in quick succession.

Art. 101 of the 1991 Bulgarian Constitution states: “(1) … the President shall be free to return a bill together with his motives to the National Assembly for further debate, which shall not be refused. (2) The new passage of such a bill shall require a majority of more than half of all Members of the National Assembly. (3) Following a new passage of the bill by the National Assembly, the President shall promulgate it within seven days following its receipt.”

The first veto concerned the Bill Amending and Supplementing the Judiciary Act, which was passed by parliament on 7 June. Novinite is reporting that President Plevneliev objected to certain parts of the Bill. However, my understanding is that the whole Bill returns to parliament to be voted upon again.

The second veto concerned the Forestry Act, which was passed by parliament earlier in the week. Novinite is reporting that President Plevneliev has vetoed the whole Bill. The Forestry Act had provoked an ‘occupy’ protest, more details about which are available here. PM Borisov seems to have sensed the anger with the legislation and Novinite reports he is indicating that he will amend the Bill. Novinite also reports that the president intended the veto to lead to negotiations between representatives of the different interests.

So, in the sources that I have access to there does not seem to be any public hostility between the president and the PM, but it is interesting that vetoes are occurring even when outside a period of cohabitation.


Bulgaria – No no-confidence motion

A number of weeks ago, before the parliamentary recess for Easter, the Bulgarian opposition filed a no-confidence motion against the government. The motion was lodged when the government announced that it would scrap the Belene nuclear power plant.

According to Novinite, the signatures of at least 20% of the total number of deputies are required to file such a motion. So, 48 signatures are necessary. The motion was signed by the right-wing Ataka party and the Bulgarian Socialist Party.

Last week, the Ataka party ‘withdrew’ its signatures from the motion, leaving only 39 valid signatures. This raised the question of whether or not the party could actually withdraw its signatures once they had been officially recorded. It also raised the question, therefore, of whether or not the motion should be put to a vote. Everyone was aware that, if put, the motion would be defeated. However, should it be debated at all?

Yesterday, parliament discussed the issue. In the end, 135 deputies voted against even discussing the motion and 35 voted in favour of tabling it. Therefore, the motion was never debated.

So, the government has survived because there was no no-confidence motion. I really like these sort of parliamentary goings-on.

Bulgaria – PM fires ministers

The Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, has sacked two ministers.

On Thursday, the Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism, Traicho Traikov, and the Minister of Health, Stefan Konstantinov, were fired. The sacking of Traikov seems to be causing some further political fallout. His dismissal seems to be linked to negotiation with Russian companies about the building of a nuclear power plant.

Sofial New Agency is reporting alleged differences between the PM and the Minister. The PM is being accused of favouring Russian interests. Some parties are portraying the Minister as defending the national interest.

This sort of division has the potential to cause further problems for the government.

Bulgaria – First sign that cohabitation has ended?

The new Bulgarian president, Rosen Plevneliev, was inaugurated last Sunday. His inauguration ended Bulgaria’s sometimes conflictual period of cohabitation.

Yesterday, Novinite reports, the president and the prime minister, Boyko Borisov, agreed the appointment of 24 new Ambassadors.

There has been an ongoing issue concerning the continuing presence of public officials who formerly served as State Security agents during the communist regime. Allegedly, some of the existing Ambassadors had such a background.

This issue has been particularly politicised because of former President Parvanov’s admittal that there was a State Security file on him and of allegations that he too was a State Security agent.

So, I suspect it is not a coincidence that almost immediately after coming to power and the end of cohabitation, President Plevneliev and PM Borisov have agreed a new set of ambassadorial appointments. This is an issue that requires the president’s approval. We should also expect to see a sharp decline in the number of presidential vetoes.

Bulgaria – Presidential election 2nd round

The second round of the Bulgarian presidential election was held on Sunday. As expected, Rosen Plevneliev was elected. The final result was perhaps tighter than might have been expected. Here it is:

Rosen Plevneliev (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria – GERB), 52.6%
Ivaylo Kalfin (Socialist Party – BSP), 47.4%

As noted in the previous post, when president-elect Plevneliev takes power, then Bulgaria’s period of cohabitation will end.

Bulgaria – Presidential election 1st round

In Bulgaria the first round of the presidential election was held on Sunday. With Novinite reporting that 97.6% of the votes cast have been counted, here are the figures:

Rosen Plevneliev (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria – GERB), 39.8%
Ivaylo Kalfin (Socialist Party – BSP), 29.1%
Meglena Kuneva (Independent), 14%

With 87.59% of the votes counted, here were the figures for all of the candidates;

Rosen Plevneliev (GERB), 39.83%
Ivaylo Kalfin (BSP), 29.17%
Meglena Kuneva (Independent), 14.06%
Volen Siderov (Ataka), 3.66%
Rumen Hristov (Blue Coalition), 1.85%
Svetoslav Vitkov (Independent), 1.4%

So, whatever the exact tally, there will be a second ballot between the top two candidates. Meglena Kuneva ran as a former independent, but was previously a minister under the National Movement for Stability and Progress government. It is likely that her votes will go to the GERB candidate, who is almost sure of being elected. If so, then Bulgaria’s period of cohabitation will end.

In addition, local elections were held too. Bulgaria directly elects the mayors of its largest cities. The ruling GERB party seems to have done well at these elections too, retaining Sofia easily.

Bulgaria – Parliament overturns presidential veto

The Sofia News Agency is reporting that on 1 September the Bulgarian parliament overturned a presidential veto. In July parliament passed the Diplomatic Service Act. The Act was designed to give the government the power to remove ambassadors who were known to have links with the former State Security service under communism. President Parvenov vetoed the Act at the end of July. The President, who is known to have worked for the State Security service in the past, claimed that the Act would give the government a monopoly on appointments. Anyway, at the beginning of September the president’s veto was overturned. The ruling GERB party, the Ataka party and the Blue Coalition voted to overturn the veto. The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms supported the president.

The veto story is interesting in itself, but its significance is increased because since July 2009 Bulgaria has been experiencing a period of cohabitation. I have identified eight other presidential vetoes since this time. All have been overturned, but it indicates the level of conflict under cohabitation. That said, I have also identified four vetoes in the period August 2005-July 2009 when there was no cohabitation. There may be others both in the current period and the previous period. However, without Bulgarian I have only been able to search English-language sources.

I am happy to supply the details of the vetoes I have identified. Please just contact me.