Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov said today (15 February) his GERB party has withdrawn from parliament the motion to ratify the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. The move is obviously intended to avoid much bigger trouble for Borissov, who had one of his worst days in years.
Borissov’s coalition cabinet submitted the Council of Europe convention for ratification last month, but was faced with ever-growing opposition, first with its coalition partner, the United Patriots, later with the opposition socialists, and more broadly, with the population.
As Reuters reported, the dispute overshadows Borissov’s efforts to present the ex-communist state, which joined the EU in 2007, as a progressive and open-minded country during its first Presidency of the Council of the EU.
It also highlights widespread resistance among the more socially conservative countries of the former eastern bloc to the liberal values of wealthier western Europe.
Speaking to Bulgarian television station bTV, Borissov said that GERB would not proceed with the ratification of the treaty, also known as the Istanbul Convention, due to lack of support from political parties, including the nationalist United Patriots, its junior coalition partner.
“We will adopt the Istanbul Convention only if there is a consensus in Bulgarian society,” Borissov said during an interview on Wednesday night, three weeks after his party decided to delay the vote to allow more time for debate.
Volen Siderov, one of United Patriots’ co-leaders, had warned that if GERB sought parliamentary approval for the treaty, it could lead to the fall of the government and early parliamentary elections. The opposition Socialists had even demanded a referendum on the issue.
The development also harms Borissov’s image as the country’s strongman always able to find solutions. Moreover, this is not by far the only predicament for Borissov, who unnecessarily attacked the President Rumen Radev.
In the same interview, Borissov said Radev’s chief of cabinet Ivo Hristov had worked in a TV station owned by Delyan Peevski, a shady media mogul.
It is however very easy to fact-check the Hristov worked in this TV station before Peevski became its owner.
Radev fought back, stating that Borissov’s chief of communications, Sevdalina Arnaudova, had worked for a TV station owned by Peevski.
But the President went even further, asking publicly the rhetoric question if Borissov has common business interests with Peevski.
“[The Prime Minister] owes answers to certain questions. Did he have and does he continue to have meetings with Peevski? Did he have and does he continue to have common business interests with Peevski? Dies he continue to attribute public procurement in the interest of Peekski”, the President asked.
As the website Mediapool wrote, Radev said aloud what everybody assumes to be an unspeakable reality.
Borissov retorted, stating that if Radev has data about smuggling by Peevski under his protection, he should submit it to the prosecutuion.
It is a public secret that the chief prosecutor Sotir Tstatsarov, Delyan Peevski and Boyko Borissov are the best of friends.
Even Peevski reacted, in a written statement in which he is quoted as saying that “it is not serious that the Prime Minister, and the President, are using me, in an attempt to solve [problems] between them and their administrations”.
To add insult to injury, Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova invited today Borissov to obtain Russian citizenship.
Zakharova was reacting to a comment by Borissov who said that in life there were two things nobody was able to choose: its parents and the president of Russia.
Sarcastically, Zakharova invited Borissov to obtain Russian citizenship and take part in the 18 March presidential election.
And protests by ecologists against the “second cabin lift” at Bansko are continuing.