Borissov blames opposition for ‘untimely’ no-confidence vote

Borissov in Burgas on 4 November 2017. [Facebook page of Boyko Borissov]

Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov on Saturday (4 November) blamed the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) for asking for a no-confidence vote at a time when the country is preparing to take up the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU.

BSP leader Kornelia Ninova announced that her force will start talks with the parliamentary groups of the Movement of Rights and Freedoms (DPS) and of Volya, the groups of maverick businessman Vesselin Mareshki, for a no-confidence vote in the Borissov cabinet.

The BSP proposes that the vote is about corruption and Ninova insists the vote is more specifically aimed at corruption in healthcare, education, regional development and other areas, as there are clear examples everywhere.

The talks will begin next week and will be held in the National Assembly, she added.

The decision to open talks with the other parliamentary forces for a no-confidence vote was taken by the BSP Congress last Saturday. The Socialists plan to hold the vote in early January, when Bulgaria will hold the EU presidency. According to Ninova, the presidency could not justify the corruption that afflicts the state.

On Wednesday, the DPS agreed that corruption was a serious topic of the no-confidence vote.

48 signatures are required to cast a no-confidence vote. The BSP has 80 MPs, so there is no need for support from other political forces to obtain the vote. But for the motion to be successful 121 votes out of 240 MPs are needed. Even with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and Volya, the total ballot would count 118, three votes short of victory.

Speaking in Buras, Borissov said that a vote of no-confidence was the right of any opposition, but questioned “why now?”.

“If (BSP) are nationally responsible, they should not do it now. A vote of no-confidence is called when you expect it to pass, not just for parading. If we assume that they expect it to pass, this means that we will be without a government during the EU presidency,” Borissov said.

Former caretaker PM Ognyan Gerdzikov also criticised the BSP for pushing for a no-confidence vote. He said that there was very little chance that such a vote would pass.

Since her election in May 2016, Ninova has been spearheading a more confrontational style with Borissov compared to previous BSP leaders in the eight years he has dominated Bulgaria’s political life. But she herself has issues with the old guard, which she has largely eliminated from the command positions.

There have been several cases when governments have fallen during their country’s EU Presidency. In the middle of the Czech Presidency, in March 2009, the then PM Mikek Topolanek lost a no-confidence vote and continued the Czech stint as caretaker PM.

During the Belgian Presidency in April 2010 the then PM Yves Leterme resigned after a key Flemish party, the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats, withdrew its support for the coalition government. After that Belgium set a record for a country without an elected government, but the Belgian Presidency was nevertheless largely seen as successful.

Borissov, who will be in Brussels on Wednesday, may not fear for the vote itself, but such a showdown is always preceded by a debate in parliament, which would not be all that palatable to Borissov, at a time when the international spotlight would be firmly on Bulgaria.

There have been several cases of corruption and nepotism by GERB officials uncovered by BSP MPs recently. One of them is Elena Yontcheva, a former journalist. GERB replied by highlighting similar cases of nepotism by BSP officials. Minister of Health Nikolay Petrov also abruptly resigned, over what is believed to be a corruption affair.

Seen today, the no-confidence vote seems inoffensive. But Borissov realises that many things could be different by January. Ninova has nothing to lose. And everything to win.

Moreover, PDS leader Mustafa Karadaya said this weekend that the presence of nationalists in Borissov’s cabinet is “mining the European future of Bulgaria”, adding that his force takes the course of “de-structuring the coalition”.

Although on the suface Borissov has succeeded in “taming the shrewd”, with reference to the three nationalist forces in his coalition, the DPS doesn’t see it this way.

*An earlier version of this article was published by BulgarianPresidency.eu, a journalistic project to monitor the upcoming Bulgarian Presidency.