Volen Siderov, leader of the parliamentary group of the nationalist United Patriots – minority partner in the government – has hinted that should Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party proceed to parliamentary ratification of the Istanbul Convention, there would be “shocks” in the ruling coalition and early elections could not be ruled out.
At the same time, speaking in a February 11 interview with public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television, Siderov said that he was pleased with GERB’s decision to postpone a parliamentary vote on the Istanbul Convention.
Principally directed against domestic violence, the Istanbul Convention has been the subject of a disinformation campaign in Bulgaria, backed by conservative, nationalist and far-right forces, on the basis of it purportedly requiring recognition of a “third gender”.
The considerable public controversy generated around this prompted GERB to postpone holding a vote on ratification on the convention, and it remains unclear when it would reach the House floor.
Siderov, asked if elections would be the result if the convention was adopted after the close of Bulgaria’s current six-month Presidency of the Council of the EU, said yes.
But Siderov, the leader of one of the United Patriots’ three main constituent parties, Ataka, warned against the “Patriots” being at the root of such potential shocks in the governing coalition, saying that this would amount to political suicide.
He called on GERB to think very well before deciding to table ratification of the convention in the National Assembly.
Siderov said that there was serious pressure for the Istanbul Convention to be ratified, adding that GERB had a weakness to succumbing to external pressure, especially when such pressure came from the European Union.
He rejected reports that there had been a secret meeting between the leader of GERB’s parliamentary group, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, and United Patriots co-leader and deputy prime minister Valeri Simeonov, to secure the votes of Simeonov’s National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria to get the convention ratified.
These reports claimed that thus the convention would be approved with the votes of GERB, Simeonov’s party and the fourth-largest parliamentary group, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.
In the National Assembly, the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party has declared itself opposed to adoption of the Istanbul Convention, in spite of internal divisions within the BSP on the issue. The BSP has called for a national referendum on whether to adopt the convention.
The fallout from the Istanbul Convention controversy has included a public difference of opinion between two of the United Patriots co-leaders, Simeonov and VMRO leader and fellow deputy prime minister Krassimir Karakachanov.
Karakachanov, reacting to the BSP idea of a referendum, in turn called for one “against gay marriages and gender education”. His call was responded to with scorn by Simeonov.
Siderov told BNT that if there was such a secret agreement on adoption of the convention between Simeonov’s party and GERB, “first, I could not be the chairman of such a group (the United Patriots) and I would proposed to expel those who had opposed a group decision to reject the convention”.
“We do not need conventions to focus on a certain type of violent violence. Violence is violence against women, children, men … it does not matter. Domestic violence is also covered by the Bulgarian Penal Code,” Siderov said./IBNA