Bulgarian MPs under pressure to approve budget revision despite political deadlock

Bulgarian MPs under pressure to approve budget revision despite political deadlock
Prime Minister Stefan Yanev has warned of potential instability this autumn. / government.bg
By bne IntelliNews August 14, 2021

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said on August 13 that he expects the government to “act responsibly” and update the budget. 

After two general elections this year, one in April and one in July, MPs appear no closer to forming a new government and the country is most likely heading for yet another snap election. 

Despite this, both Radev and caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Yanev have urged MPs to debate the proposed revision of the state budget as the country enters a new wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which means additional funds will be needed for healthcare and to support the economy. 

Speaking to journalists in Elhovo, Radev said there are “important and worrying issues” that require a budget update, a statement from the presidency said on August 13. 

"I expect the parties represented in parliament to act responsibly. I want to see a clear commitment from the Bulgarian parliament. This will show who works for the people and who sows chaos in the country,” added Radev. 

He stressed that the budget update is necessary to support businesses and cover additional healthcare expenses as coronavirus cases rise.

Yanev’s government has drafted a budget revision that would allow the spending of BGN1.8bn (€920.3mn) more than the initial plan, which would be compensated for by an additional BGN2bn revenue thanks to efforts at better tax collection, Dnevnik news outlet reported on July 22.

Yanev’s government previously said that the budget should have been revised by the former cabinet of Boyko Borissov to reflect the higher spending related to the coronavirus pandemic.

As reported in July, caretaker Finance Minister Assen Vassilev said that the government has also included funds for social activities, support for the business and healthcare, as well as for the presidential election due to take place in October or November and for another snap general election if the current parliament fails to form a government. The government also proposes to raise all pensions above the poverty line as of October 1.

Speaking on August 12, Yanev warned of potential instability stemming from the current political situation. 

"In the domestic political life of Bulgaria we observe a difficult-to-predict situation and political dynamics, which is difficult to analyse. It is worrying that these processes may have a negative impact on the political environment in Bulgaria and cause some concerns about stability in the country,” Yanev said at the beginning of the regular government meeting, a government statement said. 

Yanev called on MPs to “find time and opportunity to debate the need to update the state budget, the budget of the National Health Insurance Fund and the budget of state social insurance for this year”, the statement added. 

He stressed that if the budget is not updated in the coming months, it will be very difficult to take the measures needed to support businesses and the health care and social security systems. 

After the July 11 snap general election, Radev handed the first mandate to form a new government to former TV host Slavi Trifonov, whose political vehicle There Are Such People (ITN) took the largest share of the vote. 

When ITN failed to secure backing from its government from the reformist parties in the new parliament, a second mandate was handed to Borissov’s Gerb party, but Gerb also handed back the mandate. 

Asked when and to whom he would give the third and final mandate, Radev said he would consultations with parliamentary groups before handing over a new mandate to form a cabinet.

Ironically, Yanev’s caretaker government is more popular than any other Bulgarian government for years, not least because it has set itself the mission of rooting out corruption under past governments. 

"Unfortunately, I do not see any readiness on the part of the parties to follow this successful model," the president added, saying it is “high time for the parties to realise their responsibility”. 

"When politicians make such harsh declarations, let them not forget that behind them are hundreds of thousands of voters who all ultimately want the same thing — freedom, legality, justice, security and income. They want peace in potential crises,” Radev said.