In an exchange lasting just a matter of a few minutes on December 2, GERB party leader Boiko Borissov formally declined a mandate from Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev to seek to form a government.
A cacophony of clicking cameras accompanied the words of Plevneliev and Borissov as they exchanged documentation in a ritual that, after it was completed soon after 11am, put Bulgaria one step closer to early parliamentary elections in spring 2017.
The constitution prescribes that following the resignation of a government, the President must first offer a mandate to Parliament’s largest party, in this case GERB, to try to form a Cabinet that will have sufficient support in the National Assembly.
Borissov, who resigned as Prime Minister because his party’s candidate was defeated in November 2016 presidential elections, has underlined that he wants the country to go to early elections.
Even though he modified this in the past day to indicate that he might lend support in Parliament to an attempt by the nationalist Patriotic Front to put together a government, his parliamentary group voted to refuse to support any attempt by any group in the current National Assembly to assemble an administration.
The next stage in the mandate-handing procedure will be an offer by Plevneliev to the second-largest party, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which has said repeatedly that it also will refuse the mandate.
At the third stage, the President has a free hand in choosing to which other parliamentary group to offer a mandate. The Patriotic Front may try, but it has no prospect of succeeding.
The ritual of an exploratory mandate being handed by Plevneliev to Borissov and being refused has become a familiar one in recent years. It happened after Borissov’s resignation in 2013 and again after the “Oresharski” cabinet stepped down in 2014.
Once the current round of the three offers of a mandate is completed, Plevneliev will be obliged to appoint a caretaker cabinet. Roumen Radev, once he becomes president on January 22 2017, will be empowered to dissolve the current National Assembly and decree the date for early parliamentary elections. These are expected some time between late March and early April.