New Bulgarian Parliament Opens Maiden Session

New Bulgarian Parliament Opens Maiden Session

Sofia, April 19 (BTA) - The new Bulgarian Parliament opened its maiden session on Wednesday. The MPs took the oath vowing to serve the people of Bulgaria and observe the Constitution and the law.

The 44th National Assembly has representatives of five political forces: GERB (with 95 seats), Bulgarian Socialist Party for Bulgaria coalition (80 seats), United Patriots coalition (27 seats), Movement for Rights and Freedoms (26 seats) and Volya (12 seats).

The opening of the maiden session was presided by the oldest MP: journalist Toma Tomov, who was elected to the legislature on the Socialist party ticket. He urged the deputies "to close their eyes and look through their hearts". "We have to finally put our house in order, to pave the way to prosperity and the golden years we have been looking forward to, and bring back home our children," he said referring to the massive brain drain as many young people leave Bulgaria.

The new MPs adopted provisional rules of organization and procedure and elected their chairperson: Dimiter Glavchev (GERB). The GERB nominee was backed by 157 votes; 81 abstained and noone voted against.

In his remarks after the election, Glavchev said that he believes that "the keyword in the work of this Parliament will be 'unification'". He spoke of the importance to find solutions in key areas and singled out health care, education, the social sector and national security. "There are important legislative decisions awaiting us and I am sure that we will find common ground for these."

The MPs also elected deputy spokespersons: Tsveta Karayancheva (GERB), Valeri Zhablyanov (BSP), Yavor Notev (United Patriots), Nigyar Djafer (Movement for Rights and Freedoms) and Vesselin Mareshki (Volya).

The MPs cancelled their first Easter recess and adopted a decision to implement on an interim basis the rules of procedure and organization of the previous Parliament.

In their address to the new legislature, GERB promised to deliver the fast results people expect of them and to keep at bay extreme nationalism.

Addressing the legislature on behalf of his GERB group, Tsvetan Tsvetanov said that GERB have ambitions to serve out their four-year government mandate. He said that their government programme is "based on real solutions for the development of Bulgaria" and recalled their campaign commitment "not to make promises we cannot meet". "We don't want to pursue policies for the sole reasons of winning the popular approval," said Tsvetanov. "I hope that the coalition format will bring about political accord on the national priorities. GERB will insist on transparency and clear principles of government so as not to fall victim to partisan and coalition intrigue."

Tsvetanov also said that GERB is aware that it is assuming a new government mandate on the backdrop of an international situation that gets "ever more complex and even explosive" and that it is important to ensure "an organic bond between foreign policy competence, international legitimacy of the government and absolute clarity about the national priorities".

He said that the government will need more than political consensus on the national priorities: it will need the support of all Bulgarian people.

Tsvetanov stressed that the political profile of GERB is well known at home and abroad, "and this guarantees that extreme forms of nationalism, about which the opposition have been warning, will not be allowed".

"GERB is aware that Bulgarian people expect fast tangible results in a number of key areas: continuing the judicial reform, fighting corruption at all levels, improving the livign standards, providing quality education, accessible high-standard health services, national security and economic prosperity," said Tsvetanov.

He reiterated the resolve of his party to transform into legislation the results of a 2016 referendum where a large number of Bulgarians voted for a majoritarian electoral system and smaller party subsidies.

He also reconfirmed his party's opposition to changes in the election legislation recently proposed by the President, to curtail the voting rights of Bulgarians abroad. He said such changes go against the Constitution and encroach on the lawful rights and libertie of Bulgarians.

Tsvetanov said that no price is too high when it comes to protecting the national border, the property and life of Bulgarian people, and vowed to prioritize legislative initiatives in the area of national securities.

"We will not veer away from the road of Euro-Atlantic integration," said the GERB deputy.

He ended on an amicable note, saying that GERB's wish is to work in dialogue with the other parties in Parliament.

In their address during the opening of the maiden session of Parliament, the coalition led by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) promised to be a staunch opposition and to keep working for the changes that its supporters want.

"We did not win the 2017 general elections but the game is not yet over: it is only half-time," BSP leader Kornelia Ninova said adding that close to one million Bulgarians believe that the BSP for Bulgaria coalition is the carrier of change and the Socialist MPs will not betray them.

She outlined the areas where BSP believes national accord is needed: guaranteeing the sovereignty and national security; the demographic crisis; working for a united and strong EU; a successful Bulgarian Presidency of the EU. "We have a responsibility to take the EU through the hardships that await us," she said. She added that during the Bulgarian Presidency the UK will begin the actual exit from the EU "and Bulgaria needs to protect the interests of its people who study, work and live in the United Kingdom".

She said that her party will back a pay rise for teachers but wages alone will not solve the problems in education.

Ninova believes that her group differ the most with GERB in respect to the policy on incomes, the fight against poverty and health care. "To your proposal for a minimum pension of 200 leva, we will move an alternative proposal for adjusting all pensions to the average contributory income for 2013," she said adding that this will only cost the public purse 800 million leva and is perfectly doable. She also revealed plans to move for updating the guaranteed minimum income which was last upped in 2009.

BSP will move for a pay freeze for the MPs to the level of wages in the previous Parliament and said this would be a token of solidarity and a personal example.

Ninova said that the recent referendum in Turkey is an internal matter for Turkey and Bulgaria does not meddle in other countries' affairs. "With equal firmness, we have to say that we will not allow other countries to meddle in our internal affairs and that it is important for us to see the democratic principles, people's rights and freedom of speech being respected everywhere in the world," said she.

She said it will be a challenge for her group "to stand up against the parallel state and change the viscious model of transition" in Bulgaria.

Taking the floor to speak for his Volya party, businessman-turn-politician Vesselin Mareshki said he would put aside his notes: "I can read out the right things but what is the meaning of all this display, not to say circus, if nothing good ever comes out for the people of Bulgaria".

He called on his fellow MPs to show high ethical standards and integrity - but also more pragmatism. "Let us form a stable Bulgarian government to work much more efficiently than all governments before it, and the final goal of all this is having a prosperous Bulgaria, burgeoning business community and a thriving nation," he said.

Parliament's opening meeting was attended by President Rumen Radev, Vice President Iliyana Iotova, caretaker Ognyan Gerdjikov and ministers, Patriarch Neophyte, Chief Mufti Mustafa Hadji, other religious leaders, members of the European Parliament and representatives of the diplomatic corps.

The opening of the maiden session was broadcast live by the Bulgarian National Radio and the Bulgarian National Television. MORE

Source: Sofia