Quorum of Bulgarian parliament in question as second opposition party quits

By bne IntelliNews March 14, 2019

Small opposition Volya party founded by controversial businessman Vesselin Mareshki on March 14 announced that it is leaving parliament, putting the quorum at risk, news outlet Dnevnik reported.

Mareshki provided no explanation for his decision, but it came a few days after ruling Gerb decided to pardon accumulated debt of the chief mufti’s office and many analysts suggested the two events were connected. 

Although Gerb later gave up writing off the debt, and said it will only be rescheduled, Mareshki, who has 12 MPs in parliament, decided to boycott parliament’s sessions, threatening the quorum and leaving Gerb completely dependent on the ethnic-Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS).

Following Mareshki’s move, Gerb and its junior coalition partner, the far-right United Patriots, will only have quorum if all their 122 MPs are present as the parliament’s regulations allow sessions to be held when at least 121 of the 240 MPs are present.

Last month, the largest opposition party, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, also decided to quit parliament over controversial electoral law changes, leaving Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s ruling party more dependent on Volya and the DPS.

As Gerb is fiercely denying any union with DPS despite numerous cases when the ethnic-Turk party has backed the ruling coalition or has passed controversial legislation, the absence of Volya’s MPs is posing a challenge and could damage its already falling rating.

However tough the situation seems, the head of Gerb’s parliamentary group Tsvetan Tsvetanov said there was no parliamentary crisis and that he sees no ground for early election.

This is not the first time Mareshki, who is an informal ally of the ruling party, has put pressure on Gerb. In November, he threatened to leave parliament if two deputy prime ministers did not resign. Mareshki demanded the resignations of Valeri Simeonov over his verbal attack on mothers of disabled children and of Krassimir Karakachanov over rumours that his party was involved in illegal granting of Bulgarian citizenship. Simeonov subsequently resigned, though by that time Mareshki had already given up his ultimatum.

Shortly after he gave the ultimatum to Borissov to let his two deputies go, Mareshki faced a renewed investigation by prosecution, which asked for his immunity to be lifted, and that of two of his MPs to be removed as well. Mareshki, who is said to have very close ties to Borissov, is accused, along with MPs Plamen Hristov and Krastina Taskova, of extortion from pharmacy owners. Mareshki’s business includes one of the biggest pharma chains in the country, along with one of the largest fuel retail chains.

At the time Mareshki claimed the prosecution’s move was an attempt to put pressure on him to give up demanding the resignations of Simeonov and Karakachanov.

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