The senior partner in Bulgaria’s government coalition, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s Gerb, failed to muster the support needed to overturn President Roumen Radev’s veto on amendments to the Penal Code and Car Transportation Act, in a vote on November 19.
Bulgaria’s constitution grants the head of state a limited power of veto, through enabling the President to return legislation to the National Assembly for further discussion. The National Assembly may overturn the President’s veto through a simple majority vote or accept the veto and review the vetoed clauses.
Unlike most legislation, which requires a majority of MPs present in the plenary hall to be adopted, a motion to overturn presidential veto can pass only if it is backed by at least 121 members of the 240-seat National Assembly.
The vote on November 19 saw 93 MPs from Gerb in favour, with 61 opposed and 18 abstaining. MPs from the junior partner in the ruling coalition, the ultra-nationalist United Patriots group of parties, were among those abstaining, but their support would have made no impact on the outcome of the vote.
Since taking office in January 2017, Radev made liberal use of his veto power. This was his 25th vetoed bill, with Parliament previously overturning the veto in all but two cases, when the provisions in question were withdrawn without a vote. This was the first time that a motion on the veto was defeated.
Although Gerb and United Patriots have 116 seats combined, the government coalition usually could secure enough votes to pass the motions overturning the veto, either from the smallest party in Parliament, populist Volya with its 12 MPs, or by securing the support of some of the MPs sitting as independents, whose number currently stands at 17.
Radev vetoed the amendments, which made it a criminal offence to transport passengers without all the legally required permits, arguing that this was already punishable as an administrative offence and that the bill did not make a clear distinction between criminal cases and administrative ones.
Additionally, Parliament did not provide a clear definition of ride-sharing, which was meant to be excluded from the scope of the amendments, Radev said. He also criticised that the amendments were tabled as a rider on the Maritime Shipping Code between first and second reading, saying that this prevented public discussion of the proposed provisions