July 26, 2018 / 5:31 PM / 19 days ago

Bulgarian parliament withdraws privatisation law amendments after president’s veto

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s parliament voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to withdraw privatisation law amendments following a veto by the president.

President Rumen Radev, a former air force commander, had on Tuesday used his veto right for the eighth time and sent back to parliament the revisions, saying they did not serve the interests of the state or of Bulgarian citizens.

The changes, approved last week by parliament, dominated by the centre-right GERB party, would have cut in half the time buyers were obliged to meet specific obligations under a privatisation contract, to five years.

But the move sparked outrage in the Black Sea state, with analysts and politicians, including Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov, whose NFSB party is part of the United Patriots, a junior coalition partner, strongly criticising the “lobbyist” revisions.

Disgruntled citizens meanwhile launched protests in front of the parliament.

Critics said the bill would have allowed ship building and repair company Navibulgar, owned by the brothers Kiril and Georgi Domuschiev, to avoid paying 58 million levs ($35 million) in penalties for undelivered commitments, with some local media even dubbed the revisions “Domuschiev amendment”.

Earlier this month, the Arbitration Court of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry ruled that the Domuschiev brothers, also owners of soccer club Ludogorets, must pay the penalty for not fulfilling a requirement to repair a certain tonnage of old ships rather than breaking them up for scrap.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, eager to respond to public discontent in one of the European Union’s poorest countries, had ordered his ruling GERB party to submit a new amendment to the law that would eliminate any suspicions of lobbying less than an hour after Radev’s veto.

“Today we could have made an organization to achieve a parliamentary majority to reject the veto ... but in politics and in life, there must be recognition of some mistakes you made in voting,” GERB’s parliamentary group leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov said.

Some 185 lawmakers backed the veto by Radev, who won the presidency in November 2016, and only two abstained.

Borissov said the dispute between the coalition partners would not lead to a rift in the ruling coalition, a stance echoed by NFSB as well as the other parties in the alliance.

Some 61.6 percent of Bulgarians do not expect early parliamentary elections, though more than 64 percent assesses the political situation in the country negatively, a survey by independent pollster Alpha Research showed on Wednesday.

($1 = 1.6753 leva)

Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by David Holmes

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