Parliament Relieves Valeri Simeonov as Deputy Prime Minister, Votes in Mariyana Nikolova
November 21 (BTA) - After a debate that lasted over three hours, Parliament voted 116 in favour and 62 against to relieve Valeri Simeonov as deputy prime minister responsible for economic and demographic policy, and voted in his replacement, Mariyana Nikolova, who has been Simeonov's chef de cabinet since May.
Simeonov tendered his resignation on November 16 after 26 days of daily countrywide protests, staged by disabled children's mothers and their supporters to press for his replacement. The protests were sparked by Simeonov' remarks on SKAT Television on October 16, in which he described them as "a group of loud-mouthed women who speculated with their children, manipulated the public, exhibiting allegedly sick children in scorching heat and heavy rain without a modicum of motherly feelings and care for them." Simeonov apologized for his words on October 24 but adamantly refused to go, until close to a month later.
The Wednesday debate on Simeonov's replacement was held in the absence of the Prime Minister, Simeonov himself and United Patriots floor leader Volen Siderov.
GERB floor leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov explained that the Prime Minister was in a government meeting and hence unable to attend the parliamentary debate.
The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) insisted that the Prime Minister should be in the debating chamber because he is responsible for all actions of the government and proposes its members by Constitution.
What followed was a bitter clash between power-holders and opposition, in which both sides reiterated well-known positions: that the government should go (Socialists), that the majority of Bulgarians wants this government to stay (GERB) and that the United Patriots are bad for the government (Movement for Rights and Freedoms).
Socialist leader Kornelia Ninova accused the Prime Minister of humiliating Parliament once again. "This is not a coalition for policies but for power and offices," she said.
Ramadan Atalai of the opposition Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) suggested that the Prime Minister chose not to be in Parliament because he was embarrassed to be seated next to his Deputy Prime Minister Krassimir Karakachanov, and said that the United Patriots "are pulling GERB towards the bottom".
GERB's Tsvetan Tsvetanov said he cannot deny that they have differences with the United Patriots and that "at times emotions take the upper hand, but the coalition is following its tenure programme".
Winding up the debate, Karakachanov pointed out that not a single questions was addressed to the new Deputy Prime Minister. "The purpose of this spectacle is not to see who the incoming appointee is and what policies she would pursue, if elected. The purpose is to solve inner-party problems and shake the State," he said.
Referring to Valeri Simeonov's return to Parliament, Volya leader Vesselin Mareshki said that the Legislature is not a correctional establishment for offending ministers and that everybody expected the outgoing Deputy Prime Minister to leave politics. He also said that his own party has no aspirations to take the place of the United Patriots in the government and that they would support the nominee.
Approached by the press in the corridors of Parliament, Mariana Nikolova said that she will stick to the government's policies and that implementing the coalition agreement, including an increase of people's incomes, tops her priority list.
Among her priorities she also singled out health care and children.
She said there might be changes in her portfolio but she is not aware of such plans at this stage.
Asked whether she agrees with the position of Valeri Simeonov that his remarks about the protesting mothers were distorted by the news media, she said that she can only answer for her own words.
Mariana Nikolova has a degree in law and in public administration from the Sofia University of St. Kliment Ohridski. She also has master's degrees in European law and economic management.
Nikolova has worked as a lawyer and was a member of the Sofia Bar before going into the state administration as a law expert. She also teaches at the Institute of Public Administration with the Council of Ministers.
She was former deputy prime minister Simeonov's chef de cabinet since May of 2018 until her election to replace him.
She speaks French and English. RY/LN/.