Tensions erupt yet again in Bulgaria’s government minority partner

Tensions erupt yet again in Bulgaria’s government minority partner

Internal strife is again out in the open in the United Patriots, the grouping of far-right and ultra-nationalist parties that is the minority partner in Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s coalition government.

A week after dissension in the United Patriots over the amendments to the Fuels Act, which saw part of the group back the amendments and another reject them as lobbyist, there is a dispute over amendments to the Privatisation and Post-Privatisation Control Act.

On July 18, Valentin Kassabov, an MP for United Patriots co-leader and Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov’s National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB) party, attacked Borissov’s GERB party over the amendments, which the NFSB said were geared to favour specific business people.

The following morning, another of the United Patriots’ co-leaders, Volen Siderov who heads the Ataka party, rejected allegations of the amendments being lobbyist and said that they were necessary.

Siderov went on to attack Simeonov, who had said that were the amendments adopted, his NFSB would leave the coalition.

The issue of leaving the coalition also was referred to by Kassabov, who said that it was a question that the NFSB would discuss.

Siderov told journalists on July 19 that Simeonov, when asked by his United Patriots partners whether the coalition would stand together in the May 2019 European Parliament elections in Bulgaria, had said: “no, no, no”.

According to Siderov, the “war” that Simeonov was waging against certain business circles was not useful to Bulgaria.

The Ataka leader, in words certain to cause offence among the grouping, claimed to have founded the United Patriots coalition and to have created Simeonov’s political career.

In an apparent reference to Simeonov’s position in government, Siderov said that Simeonov was sawing away at the branch on which he was sitting.

Kassabov accused Ataka and the other United Patriots partner, the VMRO of acting with no principles and “behaving like children who do not know what they are doing”.

Borissov’s third government came to power in May 2017, with the United Patriots as the minority partner he needed to have sufficient seats in the National Assembly to form a ruling majority.

The United Patriots have been involved in repeated squabbling, including between Simeonov and VMRO leader Krassimir Karakachanov, in recent months, in turn repeatedly raising speculation that the third Borissov government may not last a full term.

Given Borissov’s record of having resigned ahead of term twice before, the United Patriots succeeded in making one of the conditions of participating in government an undertaking from Borissov that the government would serve a full term and no consideration to resigning would be given without the agreement of the minority partner.

The difficulty that would arise for Borissov and a dissolved United Patriots, in the event of early elections, is that polls suggest that GERB would again win the most seats, but insufficient to govern alone. Polls also suggest that standing as individual parties, Siderov’s Ataka would be unlikely to return, as would VMRO and the NFSB.

Against a background of a scenario in which a theoretical next Parliament would have no more than three or four parliamentary groups, thus arises Siderov’s accusation against Simeonov that the NFSB leader is risking another Bulgarian Socialist Party-Movement for Rights and Freedoms coalition government./IBNA