The bitterly disputed process of voting on the Bulgarian Socialist Party’s proposed new election code suffered another reverse on February 17 when a special sitting collapsed because of a lack of a quorum. The quorum was lost after a walkout by ultra-nationalist Ataka members of Parliament, while centre-right opposition party GERB also absented themselves. A row erupted in the National Assembly in a sequel to the February 14 drama over provisions making Bulgarian the sole language that may be used in election campaigning. That day, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms – the party led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of ethnic Turkish descent and which is part of the current ruling axis – was incensed when MPs from the other three parties united to reject its amendment that would have allowed campaigning in a language other than Bulgarian provided that translation into Bulgarian was provided.
In the course of the February 14 voting process – in itself already the third day that the party holding the mandate to govern was trying to get the lengthy and controversial election code approved – an MRF MP made a fiery speech vowing defiance of the law, invoking Turkish figures as he did so.
This, in turn, infuriated Ataka leader Volen Siderov, who on February 17 sought to get the House to adopt a resolution condemning the MRF MP, Hyusein Hafazov.
This attempt failed when the presiding officers refused to include the resolution on the agenda, leading Ataka to walk out. Siderov told reporters that if there was any attempt to put the campaign language issue back on the agenda, “I will seriously question the need for this parliament to exist”.