New Elections in Bulgaria Loom as Gabriel Rejects the WCC-DB Memorandum

Politics | Author: Nikola Danailov |February 21, 2024, Wednesday // 20:06
Bulgaria: New Elections in Bulgaria Loom as Gabriel Rejects the WCC-DB Memorandum Mariya Gabriel

"I will not sign the memorandum. Everything has its limits," announced Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mariya Gabriel during an extraordinary briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as she rejected the proposed WCC-DB memorandum and accused its proponents of engaging in political maneuvering.

Describing the WCC-DB memorandum as a thinly veiled attempt at political bargaining, Gabriel staunchly refused to lend her signature to the document put forth by "We Continue the Change - Democratic Bulgaria". She emphasized, "I perceive this so-called ultimatum memorandum as an endeavor to manipulate legislation for the benefit of specific party interests."

Furthermore, Gabriel expressed concerns over what she perceived as an attempt by WCC-DB to exert political influence over the judiciary and other governmental bodies. She asserted, "The proposed document essentially suggests a division of state services and regulatory powers between political coalitions, which blatantly contradicts constitutional principles."

In response to allegations that the reforms outlined in the memorandum were unachievable within the proposed timeframe, Gabriel challenged, "If these objectives were truly attainable in just six months, why have they not been pursued or accomplished until now?"

Expressing her discontent with the proposal's implications, Gabriel underscored, "I refuse to endorse this memorandum, which disregards fundamental democratic principles. The state must be governed with respect for democratic norms and the rule of law."

Gabriel also notified EU and US ambassadors of her decision regarding the memorandum, emphasizing Bulgaria's commitment to maintaining a unified stance in international affairs. She reiterated, "Bulgaria must speak with one voice, and I oppose any attempts to divide the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

Highlighting the memorandum's potential repercussions, Gabriel cautioned against compromising the independence of the judiciary and regulatory bodies for political gain. She warned, "Such agreements undermine the constitutional framework and jeopardize the integrity of democratic institutions."

Gabriel's notable announcement arose amidst escalating tensions surrounding the impending rotation of the Denkov cabinet, scheduled for March 6th, as outlined in the "gentleman's agreement" between GERB and "We Continue the Change - Democratic Bulgaria" (WCC-DB).

Yesterday, GERB leader Boyko Borissov engaged in a dispute with Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov and Mariya Gabriel, who were absent during negotiations on the rotation, opting instead to travel abroad. Borissov heightened tensions within the "assembly" (the coalition between GERB and WCC-DB, as dubbed by the media) by issuing threats to WCC-DB, asserting, "We are not bums. You will not give anything to us, we will beat you and take what was taken from us because of the compromise."

In response, WCC-DB proposed a memorandum outlining reforms in governance, justice, anti-corruption efforts, and security until December 2024. The memorandum suggests that if consensus cannot be reached, GERB and WCC-DB should jointly agree to hold early parliamentary elections alongside European Parliament elections. Co-chairman of "Democratic Bulgaria" Hristo Ivanov emphasized the importance of holding authorities accountable.

Boyko Borissov claimed this morning that he had not fully reviewed the memorandum, asserting that Gabriel had only read "10 lines" from it, and deemed the idea of combined elections as a logical conclusion to the non-coalition. Meanwhile, Hristo Ivanov withdrew from a morning television appearance citing "urgent commitments related to the memorandum." In the National Assembly, co-chairman of We Continue the Change Kiril Petkov clarified that the memorandum is not an ultimatum, but rather an open invitation to dialogue with GERB.

According to DPS, the WCC-DB memorandum meticulously outlines procedures for appointing regulators. The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) responded by threatening to block these appointments. DPS parliamentary group chairman Delyan Peevski condemned the memorandum's call for the division of the judiciary and the Anti-Corruption Commission, labeling it absurd. Peevski vowed, "We will not endorse this fragmentation, nor will we participate in it."

Denkov: The memorandum is an entry point for discussions

Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov provided insights into the WCC-DB memorandum, portraying it merely as a starting point for discussions rather than a definitive agreement. He emphasized that the memorandum's purpose is to ensure progress in justice reforms and anti-corruption efforts.

Responding to queries about the possibility of simultaneous elections, Denkov underscored that the memorandum serves to refocus attention on the government's objectives and the National Assembly's responsibilities. He clarified that discussions regarding ministerial appointments are ongoing and based on assessments of their performance and discussions with relevant parties.

Regarding the potential division of the foreign ministry, Denkov indicated that it remains a negotiation matter, with the possibility of him assuming the role of deputy prime minister for European affairs. He stressed that such details are part of broader negotiations within the context of the government's overarching objectives and reform agenda.

The memorandum:

The memorandum that WCC-DB is offering to GERB-SDS has a specific term of 10 months: from March to December 2024.

The priorities they set are in several areas:

  • effective management
  • justice
  • fight against corruption
  • security

In terms of foreign policy, the goals remain:

  • continuation of the European development and the Euro-Atlantic course of Bulgaria
  • entry of the country into the Eurozone
  • full integration into the Schengen Agreement

Parties to this agreement should be the two largest coalitions in the parliament: GERB-SDS and WCC-DB. In the memorandum, WCC-DB stated that the parties consider the first stage of the rotation formula to be successful both in the field of legislation and the work of the government.

Mechanism of rotation:

  • Nikolay Denkov resigns on March 6, 2024, regardless of whether an understanding has been reached on all topics by then
  • negotiations with the aim of understanding and avoiding elections
  • if there is no understanding - the elections should be two in one: parliamentary and European no minister can be replaced without the express consent and signature of Nikolai Denkov and Maryia Gabriel
  • at each rotation, Nikolai Denkov and Maria Gabriel change their positions mirroring each other
  • the rotation of the President of the National Assembly is at the same time as the rotation of the Council of Ministers
  • the rotation of a legal committee occurs every two parliamentary sessions

When choosing the regulators, it is foreseen:

  • nominating people with professional qualities and proven independence
  • no candidates with a bright political profile
  • opportunity for civil proposals
  • verification of moral qualities and absence of corruption indications
  • appropriate timelines for all inspections and hearings
  • a timeline for filling in regulators starting starting with those whose terms have expired the furthest in the past
  • political responsibility for nominations
  • prohibition of floating majorities and agreements with other parliamentary forces
  • consultations on harmonization of assessments for candidates
  • right of veto to the other party's proposed candidates

The memorandum defines the terms and principles for filling the Anti-Corruption Commission.

  • opportunity for public nominations
  • assessment by an independent committee
  • sufficient time for public discussion
  • politically independent candidates

The document also emphasizes the activities of the Temporary Commission for the verification of facts and circumstances related to the activities of the group around Martin Bojanov, as well as measures to limit abuses in the application of special intelligence tools (SIT).

Emphasis is also placed on continuing the judicial reform with the drafting and adoption of a Law on the Judiciary:

  • politically independent candidates from the parliamentary quota of the Supreme Judicial Council and the Supreme Prosecutor's Council
  • a transparent process for nominations for the professional quota of the Supreme Judicial Council and the Supreme Prosecutor's Council
  • the members of the SJC and SPC to retain their status as judges, prosecutors and investigators
  • principle of judicial self-government
  • professional empowerment of prosecutors and investigators
  • ensuring career development
  • appeals against the elections for members of the SJC and SPC to be examined by mixed panels of the Supreme Administrative Court and the Supreme Court of Cassation
  • the chief inspector to be a sitting judge
  • measures to prevent corruption

As for the prosecutor's office, it is planned to limit the possibilities for unregulated intervention, to build a vertical structure and to enable judicial control over the acts of the prosecutor's office.

Service reform is also listed as a priority. Having defined two stages:

  1. Stage one: changing the procedure for appointing the heads of the State Agency "National Security" and State Technical Operations Agency with a decision of the National Assembly on the proposal of the Council of Ministers
  2. Stage two: Preparation of a plan for reforms, legislative reform of the activities of the offices, effective control, strengthening and cooperation with other government bodies, reform of the system of verification and obtaining access to classified information.

The electoral process is also the focus of WCC-DB. They propose in the document that consultations be held in the next 9 months to reach an agreement on the method of voting (by machines or on paper) and counting of votes.

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Tags: memorandum, WCC-DB, GERB, Gabriel

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