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2022 in a Nutshell: Government Ousted by No-confidence Vote, New Parliament, Failure to Form New Cabinet 

A government toppled by a vote of no confidence in the 47th National Assembly, a failed attempt to form a government on the first exploratory mandate, thematic coalitions in the legislature, elections and changes in the electoral legislation: this is the outgoing year in Bulgarian politics in a nutshell.
The 47th National Assembly worked with a regular government for just over seven months; adopted a decision on the accession of the Republic of North Macedonia to the European Union; put out a declaration to condemn the conflict in Ukraine; and established an interim commission on the suspended gas supplies from Russia.
In the 48th National Assembly, due to the lack of a governing majority, the bills and decisions were voted by thematic coalitions, some of which were given labels: “war coalition”, “Lukoil coalition”, “paper ballot coalition”, “Vezhdi Rashidov coalition”.
The 47th National Assembly saw the ouster of the Kiril Petkov government by a no-confidence vote – a first in the years following the start of democratic changes. The government was elected in mid-December 2021, initially as a four-party coalition, including Continue the Change, Democratic Bulgaria, BSP for Bulgaria and There Is Such a Nation, but was later downsized to a three-party coalition after the exit of There Is Such a People. It came down when it lost a no-confidence vote on June 22, 2022. 
The dividing lines in the ruling coalition were the request for military aid for Ukraine, the decision to start EU accession talks with Skopje, the expelling of Russian diplomats, the election of a new BNB governor, and the money for road construction companies.Two days after the no-confidence vote, Parliament adopted a decision on the European integration of the Republic of North Macedonia. That prompted a reaction by There Is Such a Peoiple leader Slavi Trifonov who announced in a video address that his party was leaving the coalition. Following this decision, six MPs of his party left the parliamentary group and the party.
Apart from its young lineup, the 47th National Assembly also had the youngest Chair in the country’s new democratic history: 34-year-old Nikola Minchev from Continue the Change.
And one of the first decisions of the MPs was a moratorium on the prices of electricity, heating and water services until the end of March.
The 47th National Assembly took a late vote on the 2022 budget and several months later revised it. 
The legislators also closed down specialized jurisdictions. 
In June, Parliament Chair Nikola Minchev was removed from office after a motion by the opposition on allegations that he mishandled Parliament’s proceedings. Miroslav Ivanov of Minchev’s party was elected as acting chair. A new holder of the post was never elected.
Fruitless negotiations for new cabinet Despite the attempts and the elaboration of a government and legislative programme, Continue the Change failed to secure the support from the required number of 121 or more MPs and did not propose a Cabinet.
GERB-UDF refused to take the second mandate to try to form a government.
The head of state handed the last – third – mandate to BSP for Bulgaria. The Left and Democratic Bulgaria (DB) were of the opinion that the prime minister-designate should be again from Continue the Change and proposed Assen Vassilev. Continue the Change set two conditions: adoption in the plenary of the anti-corruption bill and election of Boyko Rashkov as chairman of the anti-corruption commission. Subsequently, the bill was approved only on first reading at the competent parliamentary committee but not in the plenary. Government talks started.
A live video broadcast of a meeting of the Democratic Bulgaria group in Parliament caused a new rift between the former government partners. In a new video address, There Is Such a People leader Slavi Trifonov announced that his party was withdrawing from negotiations for a new cabinet. A few days later, the Socialists returned an unfulfilled exploratory mandate. President Radev commented that the coalition left to the future caretaker cabinet chaos in the energy sector.
Later, BSP leader Kornelia Ninova told journalists that the head of state was “part of the group that brought down the current government. “The expulsion of 70 Russian diplomats and diplomatic staff was also a dividing line in the coalition. Outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Kornelia Ninova demanded that the National Assembly adopt a decision that the foreign minister cancels the expulsion note. In early July, the Russian embassy staff left our country.
On the first day of Ukraine war, the Bulgarian National Assembly issued a declaration condemning Russia’s flagrant violation of international law and the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Parliament supported the NATO and EU partners in discussing a package of measures, including sanctions, to de-escalate the conflict.
In April, during a Bulgarian visit by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, talks started on providing military aid to Kiev. BSP threatened to leave the government if a decision is made to export arms and ammunition to Ukraine.
In late April, a Bulgarian delegation led by Prime Minister Kiril Petkov visited Kiev and met with President Volodymyr Zelensky. BSP did not have a representative on the delegation, which included members of the other three political forces of the ruling coalition – Continue the Change, DB and There Is Such a People.
On 4 May, after more than five hours of debate, the parliament approved the provision of humanitarian, financial and military-technical assistance to Ukraine.
At the end of February, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov announced that he wanted to replace his Defence Minister Stefan Yanev over his cautious choice of words about the Ukraine conflict (Yanev was adamant that “operation” should be used and not “war”). In the wake of his replacement in the government, Yanev created his own political project, Bulgarian Rise, which cleared the 4% barrier for entry in Parliament is now the smallest political group in the legislature.
The election of a new BNB governor and payments to road construction companies were two other contentious issues on the agenda of Parliament.
Parliament failed to elect a new central bank governor after two of the coalition partners proposed their own candidates for the post: Andrei Gurov of Continue the Change and Lyubomir Karimanski of There Is Such a People. Subsequently, Karimanski remained the only candidate, but was supported only by ITN and DPS. After the failed election procedure, Parliament still decided to allocate half of the amount due for road repair and maintenance, or about BGN 600 million, to the road companies. 
Budget 2022
At the end of February, 2022 – and not at the end of the previous year as expected – the National Assembly adopted the 2022 State Budget Act as well as the budgets of the National Health Insurance Fund and the State Social Insurance Fund, after several extended sessions. Among the decisions were to make kindergartens free of charge from April 1, to increase the amount of the childcare allowance for children up to the age of two and to increase the minimum wage to BGN 710. As the budget was being voted, the ruling majority talked about updating it in the middle of the year. At the end of June, it became a fact and included a rescue package of anti-crisis measures to mitigate the impact of rising fuel and energy prices on people and businesses. As of July 1, the minimum pension became BGN 467, and the COVID supplement of BGN 60 was included in it.
The closure of the Specialized Criminal Court, the Specialized Criminal Court of Appeal and the respective specialized prosecution offices became final in April following amendments to the Judiciary Act.
Arrest of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov
Shortly after 21:00 on March 17, 2022, the Interior Ministry announced that a large-scale operation was underway in the country over 120 crime alerts announced by European Prosecutor General Laura Kövesi in Bulgaria. The leader of the largest opposition party in parliament and former prime minister Boyko Borissov, the finance minister in two of his cabinets, Vladislav Goranov and the GERB government’s PR officer Sevdelina Arnaudova were detained in the operation. The three were released the next day without being charged. In April, the Sofia District Court ruled that the ex-premier had been detained unlawfully. 
October 2 snap elections
Voter turnout was at the disappointing 39.4% in the October 2 smap general elections. In all polling stations, except those with less than 300 voters, people voted on machines. After the elections, seven political formations entered the 48th National Assembly. GERB-SDF was the first political force with 67 seats, Continue the Change came second with 53, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) with 36 deputies, Vazrazhdane with 27, BSP for Bulgaria with 25, Democratic Bulgaria with 20 and Bulgarian Rise with 12.
The new Parliament had difficulty electing a speaker but passed the budget extension law and secured a majority to push through the allocation of military and military-technical aid to Ukraine and revise the Election Code.  
The Election Code revisions were adopted on December 2, 2022. The head of state vetoed parts of the revisions but on the last plenary day before the Christmas recess, the deputies overrode the veto on 125-101 votes, with no abstentions.
Tough start for the 48th National Assembly
Unprecedentedly, the deputies failed to elect a speaker of parliament on its first sitting.  Parliament’s clock had to be stopped and the first sitting lasted three days to give the legislators the time they needed to elect a chair. That is without precedent in the chronicles of Parliament since 1989. Finally, Vezhdi Rashidov of GERB-UDF was elected with the support of BSP for Bulgaria, Bulgarian Rise and Vazrazhdane. 
Floating majorities, attempted sabotage of parliamentary sittings and strong-worded exchanges marked the first session of the 48th National Assembly. Since its start, it has adopted 22 laws, 58 resolutions and a declaration on Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area.
Whether the 48th National Assembly will be able to elect a regular government will become clear after January 3, 2023, when President Rumen Radev is expected to continue the constitutional procedure and offer the second exploratory mandate to form a government to Continue the Change”. It has already nominated for Prime Minister chemistry professor and MP Nikolay Denkov, who has already served as education minister. Denkov proposed that the parliamentary political forces send in their priorities so that he can incorporate them in a programmatic declaration. If the plenary supports the document, Continue the Change will return the fulfilled mandate to the president. If it does not, the President will have to proceed with offering the third exploratory mandate to a party of his choice.
GERB leader Boyko Borissov has expressed optimism about a cabinet on the third mandate, especially if it goes to Democratic Bulgaria as he sees a good chance of forming a government based on a Euro-Atlantic majority parliament.
The first attempt to form a cabinet by a GERB-UDF coalition failed after the prime minister-designate, Nikolay Gabrovski, was not approved in the plenary hall. 113 MPs were in favour of his nomination and 125 were against.
The war in Ukraine
Military support for Ukraine remained a dividing line in the 48th Parliament after causing a rift in the previous Parliament and the then ruling coalition.
On the very first day of the military intervention, the 47th National Assembly issued a declaration condemning the Russian Federation’s flagrant violation of international law and the encroachment on Ukraine’s territorial integrity, but the dispatch of arms became possible in the 48th National Assembly after it passed a resolution obliging the Council of Ministers to draw up a list within one month of available arms that could be sent to the Ukrainian army. During the vote, BSP for Bulgaria raised signs reading “No to weapons! Peace!”.
A month later, Parliament decided that Bulgaria would send military and technical support to Ukraine, as proposed by the Council of Ministers. 148 MPs voted in favour, 46 were against and one abstained. The parliamentary groups of GERB-UDF, MRF, Democratic Bulgaria and Bulgarian Rise unanimously supported the decision. Continue the Change voted in favour but one MP abstained. Yavor Bozhankov of BSP for Bulgaria was even expelled from his political group after he voted in favour of sending military support and said from the rostrum that Russia would lose the war.
Defence Minister Dimitar Stoyanov said that Bulgaria is sending the top three priorities on Ukraine’s request. He said that the aid does not include C 300 anti-aircraft missile complexes, as well as MiG-29 and Su-25 aircraft. Economy Minister Nikola Stoyanov said Bulgaria would be sending to Ukraine small arms and some ammunition. He pointed out that the aid to Ukraine would in no way affect the combat worthiness of the Bulgarian army.
The decision, adopted by the Parliament, allows up to 60 persons from the armed forces of Ukraine per year to take part in training modules for military medics on the territory of Bulgaria in connection with the implementation of the European Union Assistance Mission Ukraine.
Participation of up to 50 Bulgarian servicemen for training in the use of weapons and equipment provided in the framework of the European Union Assistance Mission Ukraine on the territory of EU Member States and/or in Bulgaria is also envisaged, as well as the participation of up to five Bulgarian servicemen (officers/sergeants) in the EU Multinational Joint Command for general training in Poland and/or for specialized training in Germany.
A week after the decision to provide military support to Ukraine, the Bulgarian Parliament ratified the agreement between the Ministries of Defence of the two countries on the provision of arms, equipment and ammunition free of charge.
After the vote, BSP for Bulgaria floor leader Kornelia Ninova said that “obviously, there is a coalition of war in the chamber, which ratified the agreement on providing weapons to Ukraine”. She called on President Rumen Radev to veto the law ratifying the agreement.  
The 48th National Assembly extended Budget 2022
At the end of February 2022 – rather than the end of 2021 as was expected – Parliament passed the 2022 State Budget Law after a series of extended sessions, including one that lasted into the small hours. At the end of June, the budget update was adopted, including an emergency package of anti-crisis measures to mitigate the impact of the rising fuel and energy prices on people and businesses.
On November 1, the caretaker cabinet of Galab Donev submitted to the 48th National Assembly a budget extension law (of the state budget and the budgets of the National Health Insurance Fund and the State Social Insurance). The argument of the caretaker government was that otherwise the budget bills would be used by the political forces in Parliament for campaigning. The bills were finally voted on the last plenary day before the MPs wet on Christmas recess, 23 December. The adopted texts preserved the current tax breaks and reduced tax rates, while salaries, pensions, social payments are financed at the levels reached by December 2022. The biggest controversy was caused by the Left’s proposal for a mechanism to determine the minimum wage. Its proposal that it should amount to no less than 50% of the average wage in the country, or BGN 850 from January 1, was not accepted.
Simultaneously, the minimum wage was debated by the tripartite council (of government, unions and employers) but no agreement was reached. The two trade unions, Podkrepa and the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria, announced that they were convening their strike committees in January. 
Election Code revisions
Parliament rejected the presidential veto on the changes in the Election Code on the votes of GERB-UDF, MRF and BSP for Bulgaria. Continue the Change said “a paper coalition” had emerged.
The Election Code amendments reinstated paper ballots as an option on a par with voting machines, introduced polling screens instead of polling booths, and stipulated that voting machines will print out ballots instead of paper records which will be counted manually after the close of the polls along with the paper ballots cast and the preferences. The machine voting tally sheet will no longer be part of the section commission tally sheet. The Central Election Commission, aided by the Minister of e-Government, will grant access to the source code and the documents of the machine voting electronic system and all other software applicable in the balloting process. Each party and coalition will be able to designate not more than three persons to have access to the source code and documentation. Access will not be grated 10 days before the polling day. Experimental electronic voting was cancelled.
Reforms called for by Recovery and Resilience Plan 
In April, the 47th National Assembly adopted amendments to the Judiciary Act, which abolished the specialized courts and prosecution services. On the agenda now are amendments to the counter-corruption commission law and the powers of the Prosecutor General.
Bulgaria’s Schengen bid
Parliament adopted a declaration on Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area. It was supported by 106 MPs and 18 voted against it. Continue the Change and Democratic Bulgaria did not participate in the vote because they were not in the chamber due to disagreements over the Election Code revisions. In the declaration, Parliament declared its full support for the efforts of the Bulgarian government to achieve a decision of the EU Council on Bulgaria’s Schengen membership by the end of 2022. 
On 8 December, the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council rejected the proposal for Bulgaria and Romania to join Schengen.