Bulgaria’s ruling coalition starts to fray

Bulgaria’s ruling coalition starts to fray
By Dimitar Koychev in Sofia December 14, 2015

Democrats for Strong Bulgaria (DSB), one of the five parties in the right-wing Reformist Bloc, decided on December 12 to withdraw its support for the government amid a deepening dispute over judicial reform.

Members of the Reformist Bloc will meet on December 14 to discuss whether to continue supporting the government, though most are expected to remain in the minority coalition led by prime minister Boyko Borissov’s Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB).

On December 9, the parliament held its second reading of constitutional amendments initiated by the Reformist Bloc, which were originally intended to form the basis of a comprehensive judicial reform. However, the amendments were significantly revised after their first reading and now reinforce the power of the prosecutor general while compromising the independence of judges.

The support for the amended texts in the parliament was overwhelming, with 204 MPs voting in favour. The Reformist Bloc was the only group to oppose the changes.

Immediately after the vote, when the revised amendments were adopted, justice minister Hristo Ivanov resigned. “Both symbolically and politically, we sent a message that judicial independence is not sufficiently appreciated,” Ivanov told the parliament.

Although Ivanov is not a party member, his push for judicial reform was strongly supported by the Reformist Bloc, which has 23 lawmakers in the 240-seat parliament, including five from the DSB. In addition to GERB with 84 seats, the ruling coalition also comprises the left-wing Alternative for Bulgarian Revival (ABV) party with 11 MPs.

Immediately after Ivanov’s resignation, Radan Kanev, the chairman of the DSB and co-chairman of the Reformist Bloc, withdrew his support from the government. He clarified that it was a personal decision, which does not bind the bloc’s parliamentary group.

Kanev was followed by another DSB lawmaker, Grozdan Karadjov, who resigned as chairman of the parliamentary committee for transport, information technologies and communications.

Despite its decision to withdraw from the coalition, the DSB said that health minister Petar Moskov, a member of the party, will not resign. Moskov will remain a DSB member but will leave his post of deputy party chairman.

Reformist Bloc members are due to meet and announce a common position on December 15. One of the other parties in the bloc, the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), has already said that will remain in the government, and another, the Bulgaria for Citizens Movement (DBG) is expected to take the same position. There is no information as yet on what the stance of the other two, smaller parties (the Agrarian People's Union and People's Party Freedom and Dignity) in the bloc will be.