Bulgaria is now in danger of taking the laurels of the most frequently changed government in Europe, which Italy has long held. The last stable cabinet of ministers and parliament, which honestly worked out the four years required by the constitution, ended their existence in the spring of 2021. Since then, Bulgaria has been haunted by an endless political crisis, when the next composition of the national assembly fails to approve, and the political parties fail to agree on the formation of a ruling coalition.
The last, and also extraordinary, parliamentary elections were held in October last year. At that time, the coalition of the center-right parties “Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria” and the “Union of Democratic Forces” (GERB – SDS) was ahead of everyone. It was she, the President of the country, Rumen Radev, who was instructed to be the first to form a new government. The leader of GERB, Boyko Borisov, who served as prime minister from 2009 to 2022, did not apply for the post of prime minister again. A professor of medicine Nikolai Gabrovsky was proposed from the party, but there were not enough votes in parliament to approve him. The candidate from GERB was supported by 113 deputies, 125 voted against.
After that, the mandate to form a government passed to Kiril Petkov, who took the second place in the elections, the block of coalitions “Continue Changes”, who was already prime minister from December 2021 to August 2022. Petkov also did not win the support of the majority, like the socialists, who were the third to receive a mandate to form a government. President Radev was forced to dissolve parliament again, form a technical government and set a new election date for 2 April.
The results of the current elections justified the forecasts of analysts and did not introduce anything new into the balance of power. Six parties and coalitions entered the People’s Assembly, none of which won an absolute majority of votes. As a result, the parliament turned out to be as divided in composition as it was. The first places were taken by the same forces as in the last elections in October 2022, and the problem with the formation of a capable government in the country remained as acute and intractable as before.
The main struggle unfolded between two bipartisan associations: “Citizens for the Democratic Development of Bulgaria” and “Union of Democratic Forces” (GERB – SDS) on the one hand and “Continue Changes” and “Democratic Bulgaria” (PP – DB) – on the other. They scored almost an equal number of votes: GERB – SDS – 26.51%, PP – DB – 24.54%. The Vozrozhdeniye party came in third with 14.15% of the vote. With a small margin from it, the fourth place was taken by the “Movement for Rights and Freedoms” (DPS), for which 13.73% of voters voted. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), once one of the leading political forces, managed to gain only 8.94%. The party “There is such a people” (ETN) also entered the people’s assembly, with difficulty overcoming the electoral threshold.
The current election results, for all their obviousness, surprised in two ways. Firstly, the amazing political buoyancy of the veteran of the Bulgarian government, Boyko Borisov. Being at its very heights (albeit with short breaks) for more than a decade and a half, being subjected during this time to the harshest criticism, up to accusations of indulging corruption and inability to solve the country’s problems, the Bulgarians return both it and that political force over and over again. which he heads, into big politics.
Second, the results of the nationalist Vozrozhdeniye party, which analysts consider a pro-Russian force, came as a surprise. Having received more than 14% of the votes in the last elections, she significantly improved her previous performance and entered the top three parliamentary winners. In the election program, the “revivalists” criticized the foreign policy pursued for many years for “the lack of clear ideas and goals, except for a reorientation from “pro-Soviet” to “pro-Atlantic” loyalty, which “led to chaos, low efficiency and lack of prospects.” “Contrary to the propaganda that the world is reduced to the EU and the US, we believe that it is much more. Deep ties with old economic partners such as Russia, the Arab world, the Far East and all countries outside the EU are important for the economic development of our country.”, – indicated in the program of the party chaired by Kostadin Kostadinov.
As we can see, according to the results of the extraordinary parliamentary elections, the first places, with some exceptions, were taken by the same political forces as in the previous elections. This means that the problem of forming a capable government in Bulgaria has remained as acute and unmanageable as before. By the way, it is not surprising that the turnout in the elections was only 40 percent – one of the worst indicators in the entire post-socialist history of the country.
Now, after the elections, local analysts are scratching their heads over possible options for a coalition of 6 parties that have passed into the new parliament. The general opinion is that the government will be right-wing and pro-Western, especially in the context of a new cold war between the Euro-Atlantic world and Russia. It is clear that the Russophiles and anti-Westernists from Vozrozhdeniye, who oppose the EU and NATO and advocate the revival of ties with Russia, have no chance of entering the government in such an environment.
The most successful option for stabilizing the Bulgarian political sphere is the creation of a coalition government of two main forces – GERB – SDS and PP – DB, which received, respectively, 69 and 64 seats out of 240 in parliament. Then the resulting cabinet would be supported by the majority of people’s deputies – 133, which, in theory, should ensure the effective work of the government. Outwardly, there are no ideological obstacles to this association. Both political forces support membership in the EU and NATO, an early entry into the euro area and Schengen, and reject any cooperation with the “revivalists”. However, the problem is that the two leaders, Boyko Borisov and Kiril Petkov, can’t stand each other. Borisov cannot forgive Petkov for being Prime Minister a year ago, in fact, allowed law enforcement to arrest him during an investigation by EU prosecutors into the abuse of European funds in Bulgaria. Although Borisov spent only a day in the dungeons, as they say, the sediment remained with him. Petkov is still suing Borisov in a lawsuit filed against him for an alleged corruption scheme in gas supplies.
Last week, at a specially organized press conference, the leaders of the PP-DB announced that they would not support a cabinet with the participation of GERB in any form.
According to Politico, in conditions when the parties failed to achieve a significant advantage, the main winner of the elections was the country’s President Rumen Radev, although his powers as the head of the republic are limited mainly to ceremonial functions. This is due to the fact that due to the complete “political fog”, the former MiG-29 pilot and ex-head of the country’s air force may again play a huge role in the possible appointments of technocratic interim administrations in the near future. Rumen Radev in his policy avoids confrontation between Moscow and Brussels and walks “a thin rope,” the publication points out.
Approximately on April 19, the first meeting of the people’s assembly may take place, during which the leadership of the parliament will be elected. Unless, of course, it works out and the deputies do not quarrel. Already on April 24, the country’s president has the right to start consultations with parliamentary parties on the formation of a government, and on April 25, Rumen Radev can give the first mandate to create a coalition to Boyko Borisov as the formal winner of the past elections. Then, in case of failure of the GERB – DB, the other two applicants will have such an opportunity. If the whole process fails, Radev will dissolve parliament. The most likely date for new early elections is July 23 or 30. This means that the Bulgarians will have another opportunity to step on the same rake for the sixth time.