The Head of State to the Members of Parliament of the 45th National Assembly: It Is Up to You to Revive Parliamentarism
Decisive actions are necessary to dismantle the model of governance rejected by voters, President Rumen Radev underlined in his address to the people and the National Assembly
Dear Ms. Zaykova,
Dear Madam Vice President,
Dear Chairman of the Constitutional Court
Dear Members of Parliament,
Dear Representatives of the Judiciary,
Dear Representatives of the Religious Communities in the Republic of Bulgaria,
Dear Presidents of the National Assembly,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to first of all turn to you, Members of Parliament, and congratulate you on the highly responsible mission Bulgarian voters vested in you – to represent the people, to defend their rights and interests, to achieve their aspirations.
For many of you here it is your fist elective position. There will always be someone to reproach you for lacking experience. I heard the same when I entered the Presidential Race in 2016. I still hear it today. This must not discourage you. In politics, some people call their sins and the art of impunity “experience”. This is an example of trading with the public, national interest even, in the name of their own survival. Citizens rejected this understanding of politics with their vote. They asked for new people. They chose you.
No one is without sin, but those whose political life is now commencing have the chance to write a beautiful chapter of their biographies precisely in this public walk of life. So accept the lack of experience as an opportunity. There are currently in this hall dignified politicians with a parliamentary past who in previous mandates stood up for parliamentarism. Ladies and gentlemen, it is up to you for the new National Assembly to work professionally and honourably.
You are inheriting an institution in deep crisis. The past National Assembly abdicated from active parliamentary control. Procedural techniques were applied systematically to avoid public discussion. The vicious practice of bills E of Executive authority being proposed by groups of Members of Parliament not to engage the political responsibility of the cabinet has been imposed. Key legislative acts were amended quietly by transitional and final provisions of other laws that are not in the focus of public attention. The legal nihilism of the 44th National Assembly reached its peak when the majority decided to gain time under the pretext of drafting a new Constitution. I thank all those of you who hindered this political and legal misconception.
I often vetoed, but unfortunately, rarely did my arguments achieve a restorative effect. It is time to accept that the Presidential veto is not an act of war with Parliament, but a tool for improving laws.
Everything mentioned so far led to a historic collapse in trust in the most important institution in a Parliamentary Republic – the National Assembly. It is up to you to revive parliamentarism. The first test for your success will be reinstating real parliamentary control over the executive authority. You as Members of Parliament know very well that nobody can exchange you, sell you or rent you out, nor can they silence you. You bear the free will and trust of thousands of voters and you cannot be serfs to any political leader. Nobody has the right to offend your personal dignity unless you yourselves allow them to.
The 45th National Assembly is being called at a difficult time. It is the expression of months of protests and the common will for change. We can all see that Parliament is fragmented and some of you, as well as many analysers foresee a brief life of the 45th National Assembly. Time will show how long it will persist and it depends entirely on you. But as long as it may be, Parliament faces responsible and pressing decisions to be made.
Firstly, forming a government. The Covid-19 crisis, bankruptcies, poverty, the urgent budget update, overcoming drastic lagging behind in the European Union according to all important indicators, and the necessity of intensive modernisation of the country all require operational decisions. Starting on Monday, I will conduct consultations with parliamentary groups on forming a government.
Achieving a governing majority, as necessary as it may be, should not be a simple mathematical addition of votes, because a coalition lacking principles could only deepen the crisis. You are aware of the dictum that when everyone is in governance, the people are the opposition. Clear priorities, a clear value framework, clear limits on possible compromises and, most of all, clear political responsibility that does not hide behind the figures of experts are needed.
In the past elections, Bulgarians stopped waiting for woe and expressed their will for change. Rain and fear of the pandemic did not stop millions of voters going out and making their voice heard. Thousands of compatriots abroad travelled hundreds of kilometres and waited for hours to show their commitment to the future of their homeland.
Ladies and Gentlemen Members of Parliament,
It is time!
Whatever the development of consultations and mandates for forming a government, Parliament must undertake immediate actions for reforming electoral law. During the consultations some of you participated in, held by me for over a year and a half, numerous proposals were made, including a 100% machine vote, video surveillance, shedding light on the work of the electoral administration, fair access of media to the pre-election campaign, more polling stations abroad and providing distance voting for our compatriots abroad – initially by post with a perspective for electronic voting. We owe it to the humiliated members of election commissions, obliged to wait for days packed in halls and busses. We owe it to our compatriots abroad who enthusiastically showed that to them Bulgaria is not only a place of birth, not only the past, but also the Homeland to which thousands dream of coming back.
The historic moment we are in puts this Parliament before the mission of passing long-awaited changes to achieve the most important and urgent national goal – strengthening statehood. Decisive actions are necessary to dismantle the model of governance rejected by voters, to affirm rule of law, neutralise underhandedness, cut corruption, and bring citizens back to governance. If this goal is not achieved, all new governance configurations and their economic and social policies will continue to be doomed to fail and Bulgaria will cement its position at the bottom within the European Union in terms of standard of living and quality of life.
A key step along this path is setting up a new type of governance – a blend of dignity and competence. The moral qualities, culture and professionalism of those in power whom we all expect you to appoint as soon as possible will be of decisive importance for restoring trust in institutions, for bringing the country out of the crisis and for our full European integration. I believe it will be a powerful signal if you – the political forces in which Bulgarians placed their trust – achieve a consensus on formulating and applying a Dignity and Competence Pact regarding those nominated for leading state positions.
Another pressing matter is the passing of amendments to the regulatory framework to guarantee civil rights, effective justice, a responsible and dignified prosecutor’s office, real separation of powers, a transparent and predictable legislative process, uncompromising prosecution of corruption, strengthening property protection and fair competition.
Our society expects tangible expansion of the mechanisms for transparency and accountability of governance. I believe it is about time Parliament took more perceptible control over the expenditure of the executive and especially over the reckless wasting of a carefully managed budget surplus. Let there be greater opportunity for municipalities to achieve economic and social progress through financial decentralisation and increased administrative rights.
Restoring statehood, the sovereignty of the people, justice and fighting corruption is all unthinkable without free media and independent journalism. I thank the media for being here today. I hope media freedom will be guaranteed through media ownership transparency, financial independence of public media from the executive and maintaining high professional and ethical standards. This must be among the main priorities of this and every subsequent Parliament. The former National Assembly isolated journalists and I hope that you will right this wrong.
I am certain that, unless the changes for strengthening statehood I presented to you are implemented swiftly, Bulgaria cannot unfold its full potential, which I am certain we all believe it holds. They are the indispensable foundation for future governments to develop constructive policies in all fields of public and economic life.
We need a fruitful debate over the challenges before our country’s growth and overcoming them, over the scope and level of our national ambitions, over the goals along our path to a democratic, modern and European Bulgaria and over the method of achieving them. I want to assure you that as Head of State I am willing to participate in such a debate and work according to my Constitutional powers to lead our country along the path towards these nationally important goals.
I also expect Parliament to make a decision regarding the Recovery and Sustainability Plan. I expect this plan that is important to our country to take into account several rational proposals and to show a higher level of national ambitions for decisive modernisation of our country.
Dear Members of Parliament,
In conclusion I must state that, should the National Assembly not succeed in forming a government I will execute my Constitutional duty of appointing a caretaker government.
I wish you all carve out your names in the annals of Bulgaria with fair laws and honourable services for our Homeland.
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