FOREIGN NEWS: Bulgaria Parliament overrides budget veto amid protests
SOFIA, Bulgaria: Bulgarian lawmakers on Friday voted to override a presidential veto on the revised 2013 budget amid ongoing anti-government street protests in the EU’s poorest country.
A total of 130 lawmakers out of the 223 present in the Parliament were in favor of overriding the veto imposed last week by President Rosen Plevneliev, who is opposed to the cabinet’s plans to increase public debt to counter big shortfalls in budget revenues and enable increased spending.
The vote was a key test of support for the minority Cabinet of Socialists-backed technocrat Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, who has come under massive pressure to resign from over two months of daily street demonstrations in the capital Sofia.
The Socialists and their loose partners from the Turkish minority MRF party have only 120 lawmakers in the legislature and had to count on backing from the unpredictable ultra nationalist Ataka party to override the veto.
The special session on Friday was held with heavy security surrounding the building where about 1,000 protesters had gathered to shout “Mafia” and “Resign.”
Police cordons were deployed to prevent the crowd from clashing with a rival group of some 2,000 cabinet supporters who also marched to parliament.
Despite pledging urgent measures to tackle the country’s problems of poverty and unemployment, the Socialist-backed government of technocrats in office since May has faced public calls to resign.
Bulgaria’s economic strains already led to the ousting of the previous government in February.
Plevneliev cannot use a second veto and will now have to sign the unchanged budget bill into law.
The revised budget envisions funding an increase in Bulgaria’s year-end public deficit with new debt of up to 1.0 billion leva (510 million euros, $680 million).
The changes were put forward by the finance ministry to counter revenue shortfalls and provide for the increased need for social spending at a time of slower economic activity in the country.
After months of meager growth, Bulgaria saw its economy shrink by 0.1 percent in the second quarter of 2013 — the first quarterly contraction since 2009.
The government hopes to wrap up the year with growth of about 1.0 percent but economists have already warned that further political turmoil made recession in the EU’s already poorest country even more probable.
SOURCE: Arab News