Bulgarian MPs shelve vote on bill to cut state subsidies for political parties

Bulgarian MPs shelve vote on bill to cut state subsidies for political parties

Bulgaria’s Parliament postponed the vote on the second reading of the bill that would cut state subsidies for political parties and remove limits on financing for political parties from businesses and individuals.

The vote was on the National Assembly’s agenda for June 21, but was struck down on the grounds that MPs did not receive the budget committee’s report on the bill. The committee approved the draft bill at a meeting on June 20.

Perhaps more significantly, the bill was also harshly criticised by Valeri Simeonov, one of three co-leaders of the United Patriots coalition, the grouping of three far-right and ultra-nationalist parties that is the minority partner in the government of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov.

Simeonov asked for the vote to be delayed in order for the bill to be discussed inside government coalition. Speaking to public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television (BNT) on its breakfast show on June 21, he said that the bill would “completely liquidate multi-party democracy” and lead to a two-party political model.

“We sat down with VMRO’s leadership yesterday and concluded that this bill should not progress to a vote and should be at least postponed for consultations with all political forces,” Simeonov told BNT.

VMRO, another party in the United Patriots grouping, has also opposed the proposal to slash party subsidies, as has the largest opposition party in Parliament, the socialists.

The opposition Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), which has backed Borissov’s GERB on several key votes in the current National Assembly, was the one to propose removing limits on donations for political parties.

By agreeing to the MRF proposal, GERB was entering a coalition with the party, Simeonov said. “Let GERB decide who does it want as a partner in this government. If they want MRF, be my guest,” he said.

The bill, which is formally a revision of the 2019 Budget Act, would cut the budget subsidy for parties that won more than one per cent of the vote in the most recent election from a current 11 leva to one lev (about 50 euro cents) per vote won.

It was tabled after it emerged that a number of political parties had been overpaid under the current system. Among the five parties that have to pay back the excess sum was Borissov’s centre-right GERB party./ibna