Bulgarian Deputy PM Simeonov resigns after month of protests

Bulgarian Deputy PM Simeonov resigns after month of protests
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia November 17, 2018

Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov resigned on November 16 after a month of protests demanding his dismissal. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has accepted his resignation.

The resignation raises questions about the stability of the ruling coalition. Simeonov is one of the leaders of the junior coalition partner of Borissov’s Gerb – the far-right United Patriots. Earlier Borissov has said that if he demands Simeonov’s dismissal, the ruling coalition will collapse. However, Borissov has said in later statements that, if his controversial deputy decides to quit by himself or this is proposed by the United Patriots, he will accept it immediately and the coalition will survive.

There was no official statement, but bTV said that shortly after the resignation the government started an emergency meeting.

Meanwhile, Simeonov told reporters that he took the decision to resign by himself due to the “negative media campaign” against himself and his party, the National Front for Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB), which, along with Atana and VMRO, comprises the United Patriots.

“I just realised that this is a media campaign that benefits certain political forces,” Simeonov said, and added that his move aimed to stop the protests.

Simeonov, who has many times angered people, was pushed to quit the government by mothers of disabled children and their supporters who had been protesting since mid-October after he made a highly offensive statement about them.

The NFSB leader called mothers campaigning for better treatment of their disabled children “a group of shrill women who speculated with their children, manipulated society, taking out in the streets those allegedly ill children in hot weather and rain”, provoking outrage in Bulgaria.

Following the resignation, the protesting mothers once again went out the streets, but this time shouting “Victory”, dancing and hailing each other.

Simeonov’s dismissal was also demanded by the opposition parties in parliament which refused to attend parliament sessions as long as he is part of the government. This led to several cases when parliament was unable to debate due to lack of quorum.

If Simeonov’s MPs leave the ruling coalition, they can easily be replaced by those from Volya party led by businessman Vesselin Mareshki.

Mareshki too is no stranger to controversy. Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov asked on November 8 for the parliament to lift the immunity of six MPs suspected of corruption including Mareshki and two of his MPs. Moreover, Mareshki’s MPs will not be enough to prop up Borissov if the ruling coalition collapses. 

In that case, Borissov will have to choose whether to officially accept the support of the ethnic-Turk Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS) or to resign. DPS is already backing the government informally, but gave clear signal that it will stop doing so if Borissov keeps Simeonov.