What's Up Bulgaria

EU Parliament election confirms balance of power and vice president of ruling party resigns4 min read

– The results of the European Parliament (EP) elections on May 26th in Bulgaria reconfirmed the balance of power in the National Assembly. The ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria won the elections with about 31% of the votes , followed by Bulgarian Socialist Party ) (BSP) which was supported by around 24% of voters . While GERB belong to the Christan democratic group European People’s Party (EPP), BSP is part of the Party of European Socialists (PES).

The coalition partner of GERB, Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Bulgarian National Movement (IMRO-BNM), who affiliated with conservative and EU-sceptic European Conservative and Reformist group (ECR) won two seats. Finally, Democratic Bulgaria, which has no representatives in the National Assembly, also won one mandate in the EP. The voter turnout in Bulgaria was among the lowest in Europe – around 32%.

Tsvetan Tsvetanov and Boyko Borissov at GERB’s national conference, 2013. Source: Offnews.bg

On May 30th, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, former Minister of Interior in the first government of Boyko Borissov (2009-2013), former leader of the parliamentary group of GERB (until two months ago when he resigned following a corruption scandal), and the first man in the party after Borissov, resigned from all positions in GERB after a long conversation with the Prime Minister. No formal reason for the resignation has been articulated besides Borissov’s assertion that “the trust between the two has diminished”.

On May 31st, three children were injured in Silistra, Northeast Bulgaria during a event organized by the local police entitled “Hello Holidays! Let’s play safe” aimed at showcasing how police catches lawbreakers. During the demonstration a stun grenade exploded near spectators, causing injury to the children. The director of the regional police department has been  suspended.

– In his speech at the annual ball of the Confederation of the Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria on June 4th , Prime Minister Boyko Borissov declared that taxes in the country would not be “touched”. This statement comes against the backdrop of a proposition from the opposition for a decrease of the VAT for some products. In addition to the fixed 20% VAT for virtually all products and services in the country including medicines and books, taxation in Bulgaria is in practice regressive.

– Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok visited Bulgaria on June 5th and met with both his counterpart and the Prime Minister. A key moment of his visit was a cold shower for the Bulgarian government in respect to the Netherlands ́support for the country’s Schengen zone membership. Blok underlined that the challenges that Bulgaria has to overcome in order to receive the Dutch ‘yes’ are corruption and  problems in the judiciary.

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Source: Offnews.bg

– Bulgarian President Rumen Radev participated in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 7th. In his speech during the plenary session Radev underlined that Russia had “received its script and faith” from Bulgaria, but the latter had “received its freedom” from Russia. Other than that, the Bulgarian President welcomed investors to do business in Bulgaria and called for a “global consensus against corruption”.

– On June 6th, Prime Minister Borissov proposed in the Parliament a decrease of the annual subsidy for political parties from 11 levas (approx. 5.5 EUR) per vote to a 1 lev  (approx. 0.5 EUR) . The decision came soon after late night show host Slavi Trifonov, announced a calculation showing that the parties have actually benefited more than stipulated in law.

Interestingly, Borissov called such a decrease “populism” but nevertheless GERB is proposing it so that “we can see then how the parties will manage, how they will pay sociologists, political scientists”. “The money saved will be given for the construction of kindergartens”, the premier added.  

– On June 19th, after a meeting with members of the parliamentary group of GERB, the leader of the Movement for Rights and Liberties (ostensibly in opposition of the government) Mustafa Karadaya announced that GERB had agreed on “an open financing of the political parties”, including by corporate donations. Until now, only private individuals could donate.

In June Bulgaria came twice to the attention of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). On June 7th, RSF condemned Rossen Bossev’s criminal defamation conviction for criticizing the former head of Bulgaria’s Financial Supervision Commission, “a precedent for investigative journalism in a country that already has the European Union’s worst press freedom ranking”. On June 18th, RSF called on the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office “to explain the absurd judicial probe it has launched against two investigative reporters who exposed a real estate scandal implicating senior officials”.

Main sources: Dnevnik (BG), Svobodna Evropa (BG)

Bozho Kolov is a Political Science graduate from Sofia. After working and studying in Poland and Romania he decided to continue his education in the EU-Russia master program at Tartu University, Estonia. His main research interests are Eastern European Politics, Church-State relations and Socialist monumental architecture. Besides politics he is interested in literature and theatre.