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There Is Such a People Leaves Government Coalition, PM Petkov Says He Is Ready for Minority Government

In a dramatic chain of events on Wednesday, the power-sharing There Is Such a People (TISP) announced that it is leaving the government coalition and Prime Minister Kiril Petkov held an emergency news conference to announce that he is ready for a minority government. “A minority government is better than one that is under constant pressure and extortion [from a coalition partner],” Petkov said at the news conference with the participation of the leadership of his Continue the Change party.
After that, the Socialist party, which is also in the government coalition, vowed support for the Prime Minister and argued that new election would bring chaos, while the fourth power-sharing party, Democratic Bulgaria, said the coalition must be given a second chance.
Here is how events unfolded:
TISP leader Trifonov withdraws ministers from government, “puts end to this coalition and this agony”
In a statement on his 7/8 TV, TISP leader Slavi Trifonov said he is pulling out his ministers from the government. “I am putting an end to this coalition and this agony,” said he in a statement on his 7/8 TV channel.
The announcement came shortly after three government ministers of TISP – Teodora Genchovska of Foreign Affairs, Grozdan Karadjov of Regional Development and Radostin Vassilev of Sport, left the weekly meeting of the government during a discussion of a proposed budget revision. The rift was apparently caused by the allocation of additional funding to the government departments.
The other government ministers denied any major conflict and e-Government Minister Bozhidar Bozhanov said that the proposed budget revision got the government’s approval.
Trifonov said in his statement on 7/8 TV that the walkout of the TISP ministers was only the last straw and there are two main reasons “why the coalition does not work: North Macedonia and the fact that the government does not have money”. “This is why there is no place for us in this coalition,” the TISP leader said.
Trifonov said that Continue the Change, the biggest party in the government coalition, is working against the national interests and leading the country to bankruptcy. 
He said that ever since Assen Vassilev was appointed Finance Minister, billions of leva have been spent and “flying around”. According to Trifonov, no one should have the right to “experiment” with such huge sums.
It also transpired from Trifonov’s statement that TISP would back the social package in the budget revisions when they reach the plenary.
As for North Macedonia, he said that the Prime Minister “is pursuing a foreign policy different to that of the Foreign Minister, a policy different to that of Parliament, of the Consultative Council for National Security with the President”. “The Prime Minister has his own foreign minister [different from the nominal minister],” Trifonov.
He insisted that Petkov had promised to the European leaders to make sure Bulgaria lifts its veto on the start of EU accession talks with Skopje and said that was “a brazen unilateral violation of the coalition agreement”.
Continue the Change leadership holds news conference, says Cabinet has not fallen yet and it is ready for minority government
Shortly after Trifonov’s statement, at a news conference attended by the Ministers of Finance Assen Vassilev, of Education Nikolay Denkov, of Good Governance Kalina Konstantinova, of Innovation Daniel Lorer and of the Interior Boyko Rashkov, as well as by Parliament leader Nikola Minchev and Continue the Change floor leader Andrei Gyurov, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said that the government has not fallen yet, and that he is ready for a minority government, which he expects to be better than the current situation.
Continue the Change has 67 seats in this Parliament, TISP 25, the Socialists 26, and Democratic Bulgaria 16. It means that without TISP, the possible minority government would have 109 votes in the 240-seat legislature.
At the news conference, Petkov offered his take on the rift with TISP. He said the crisis started when Regional Development Minister Karadjov asked for an increase of his ministry’s budget by BGN 3,560 million to pay to construction companies for road repairs.
The PM said that those were the same construction companies which were found to have been involved in faulty road repair contracts. A report from an audit into the matter is due to be published soon and TISP were aware of that, said Petkov.
Karadjov’s demand was rejected. Then TISP refused to back a proposal that Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov head the anti-corruption committee. 
Petkov said that his Continue the Change party is not going to wait any more. Instead, it will go ahead with submitting to Parliament revisions to the anti-corruption committee law, which are long overdue and which Continue the Change sees as instrumental for fighting corruption. He also said that Rashkov would be nominated as head of the anti-corruption commission.
Finance Minister Assen Vassilev said that there was an assumption when the coalition was formed, that it would put an end to theft and that the money of Bulgarian people would be spent lawfully and as needed. “Our red line is not to allow theft and we are here because of this red line,” said Vassilev. He added that the coalition was difficult to put together, and eventually it included parties that are very different both in terms of economy and of how Bulgaria would stand in the international community.
The road contracts investigation
Then Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov provided details about the probe into the faulty road contracts. He said that for close to a year now the Interior Ministry has been investigating office-holders from the Boyko Borissov government, who have been linked to companies contracted to build motorways in violation of the Bulgarian legislation. The investigation found that these companies, which are closely linked to Borissov’s cabinet, had received in advance between 50% and 80% of the funds that had to be put in road construction, including the construction of Hemus motorway, said Rashkov.  
According to him, the funds were spent for various other purposes. He said that there is evidence that some of the companies withdrew the money in cash from banks in a complicated way, by creating hollow firms and using landless people to withdraw the sums. The money was received by certain banks and then sent to unknown parties. 
Rashkov stressed that the case involves budget funding. In his words: “It is unknown where this money is now and how it is being used at the moment. There is information that the companies in question have invested state funds in sites that satisfy their corporate, personal and group interests.”
He believes that the Interior Ministry has a responsibility to make this information public and he promised that he will do that himself on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Regional Development Ministry is preparing to pay the same companies once again without seeking an explanation for the huge amounts that sank in their possession during the time of Borissov’s government.   “Bulgaria is now confronted with the choice of either continuing road construction in the same old way or changing the approach and taking different decisions, including a change in the way the country is run,” Rashkov added.  
He said that nobody has been indicted yet for the road construction financing. The investigation on the matter is conducted by the National Investigation Service.  
Socialist leader vows support for PM’s anti-corruption policy, says new elections would bring chaos and uncertainty
Two hours after the beginning of the Continue the Change news briefing, Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) leader Kornelia Ninova held a news briefing at the party headquarters to vow support for the Prime Minister. She said that the Socialists firmly support the policy of the Prime Minister for fighting corruption and would back the nomination of Boyko Rashkov to head the anti-corruption commission.
It transpired that the situation was discussed by the narrow BSP leadership and will be discussed by the broad leadership this coming weekend.
Ninova said she has two more things to tell the press after the initial discussion Wednesday. Firstly, the most important thing in the short term is to adopt the budget revisions. The BSP policies are included in the revisions but more importantly, they affect millions of Bulgarian people, she commented. Secondly, to the Socialist party, having elections now means more chaos, deeper crises, uncertainty, and no Parliament to make decisions. “We share the responsibility for this government and we know how to go ahead,” she added.
Democratic Bulgaria co-leader calls for second chance for government coalition
Approached by BTA for comment on the situation, the co-leader of the power-sharing Democratic Bulgaria, Hristo Ivanov, said that the parties should meet later Wednesday and find a way to talk to TISP to give the coalition a second chance.
He believes that the coalition parties could reconsider the format and heal the coalition “because we have a responsibility to this country”. “What we are doing today is bringing about more agony, not less,” he added. 
Regional Development Minister: the PM uses lies and slander to ensure the Cabinet’s survival
In a bTV evening talkshow, Regional Development Minister Grozdan Karadjov accused the Prime Minister of lying and using slander to ensure the survival of his government. “It is a sorry picture to try to ensure your government’s survival by using slander, insults and lies about your own Deputy Prime Minister. That was a mirror image of things in the coalition. He also said that it is not money he personally asked but money that according to a parliamentary sanction should go, via the Regional Development Ministry budget, to what the Prime Minister called “thieving companies”. He reminded viewers that it was TISP that proposed a draft decision that no payments be made to these companies but then in April the Prime Minister promised that the government would pay BGN 600 million in overdue payments for past projects, even faulty ones, immediately and another 600 million by the end of June.
TISP floor leader: Diplomats advised the PM how to bypass the coalition agreement and lift veto on Skopje’s EU accession talks
TISP floor leader Toshko Yordanov said that the Prime Minister and Vessela Tcherneva, the director of the Sofia office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, have been trying throughout to bypass the coalition agreement and lift the Bulgarian veto on the start of EU accession talks with Skopje before Skopje has done anything to honour its commitments under a goodneighbourliness treaty with Sofia.
That transpires in memos kept at the Foreign Ministry, he said. “Those are memos of foreign diplomats who quote Kiril Petkov as saying that a parallel process would be used outside the established negotiating framework,”
Yordanov also accused Petkov of lying. For one thing, he said that Rashkov’s nomination for the coalition council has never been discussed by the coalition partners. “It is an idea that is floating in the air and nobody has made decisions ‘for’ or ‘against’,” he said.
After coalition council meeting: “We won’t allow Bulgaria to slip into election spiral”
The leaders of the three formations that remained in the government coalition after the TISP walkout, held a meeting in a format that is called “coalition council” to consider the options. They emerged from it determined to carry on and prevent snap elections. “I want to assure all people that we will do our best to make sure Bulgaria continues with the government it has now,” said Kiril Petkov. “I won’t allow the country to slip into a spiral of elections while there is a war and an energy crisis – only because of somebody’s ego or because of backstage dealings,” he added.