Bulgaria’s right wing-dominated Parliament launched an unprecedented impeachment procedure against Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov on March 26. The petition, sponsored by the ruling Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), was signed by 162 members of the 240-member assembly. The charges comprise two counts of violating the Constitution, including an accusation that Parvanov illegally recorded a Bulgarian citizen’s conversation without his knowledge. Parliament is set to begin debating the motion to impeach on March 31; should more than 160 MPs vote to remove the president, the case will go to the Constitutional Court, which will decide whether to affirm the motion within one month.
ANALYSIS: The impeachment is the result of an ongoing clash between President Parvanov and Finance Minister Simeon Dyankov. On March 5, Dyankov met with Parvanov to “clear up a misunderstanding” about Dyankov’s televised comments about the president’s real estate holdings. The Finance Minister stuttered his way through a half-hearted apology. Parvanov later disseminated a transcript of the recording in an attempt to humiliate Dyankov.
The only way Parvanov will leave the presidency is if he wants to. This is the first time Parliament has attempted to impeach a head of state. Bulgaria’s Constitution is vague about the causes and procedures for impeachment. In addition, a number of Constitutional Court judges were appointed by Parvanov or the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), with which Parvanov is affiliated. The impeachment movement is therefore doomed to fail – unless the president decides he wants to leave office.
Parvanov would become a serious challenger to Borisov upon leaving office. The president is the only politician in Bulgaria who has the authority to openly oppose the GERB government; all other significant parties have either been co-opted by GERB or are entangled in corruption scandals. The president has a higher approval rating than any other politician. Parvanov’s standing will rise even further if GERB and its allies forcibly remove him from office.
Impeachment would allow the president to reposition himself politically. Parvanov may either establish his own party or resume the chairmanship of the BSP, from which he had to resign upon becoming president. The BSP has been in sharp decline since losing the 2009 elections amid corruption scandals. The party has not yet changed its chairman or executive officials; BSP leaders probably wanted to wait until Parvanov’s term ends in 2011.
Parties that signed the impeachment document were GERB, the Union of Democratic Forces, Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, Ataka and independents affiliated with the Order, Law and Justice party. The BSP and the ethnic Turkish-based Movement for Rights and Freedoms voted against it.