Bulgaria's Cabinet Survives Fourth No-Confidence Vote

Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski’s minority cabinet survived a no-confidence vote over its handling of the energy industry, the fourth such challenge he beat since coming to power a year ago.

Lawmakers rejected the motion in a 116-93 vote in the 240-seat assembly, Parliament Speaker Mihail Mikov said today. The opposition Gerb party, led by former Premier Boyko Borissov, wants early elections after winning the May 25 vote for the European Parliament with 30 percent, while support for the ruling Socialists fell to 19 percent from 27 percent in last year’s early parliamentary ballot.

“The problems in the energy sector have accumulated for decades and they can’t be resolved overnight,” Oresharski told lawmakers in Sofia. “Our government removed some of the imbalances in the power market and started the liberalization of the industry, which had been delayed so far.”

The Socialist government led by Oresharski, which took office a year ago, cut power prices twice last year after high utility bills triggered public protests in the European Union’s poorest state and toppled Borissov’s administration. The price cuts generated losses at state-run National Electricity Co. and prompted investment cuts by the local power-selling units of CEZ AS, EVN AG and Energo-Pro AS.

Oresharski, a former finance minister, survived three similar votes over his administration’s security policy and its approach to regional development and investment. In the past year, he endured months of protests triggered by allegations of a corrupt political system.

Revoke Licenses

Bulgaria began proceedings to revoke the local power-selling licenses of CEZ, the biggest Czech utility, Austria’s EVN and Prague-based Energo-Pro for withholding green energy payments. The energy regulator says they owe a combined 347.6 million lev ($242 million) to National Electricity. The three utilities dispute this.

The regulator has postponed a ruling on the licenses until end of June. National Electricity has debts of about 1.76 billion lev, according to a report presented to parliament in December.

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