A cabinet for a crisis

Prefacing Plamen Oresharski’s announcement on May 27 2013 of the proposed cabinet, Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev portrayed a country in deep crisis and in dire need of rescue from the brink.

Speaking at the start of a meeting of the socialists’ national council, open to the media for the occasion, Stanishev repeated much of what he had been saying for months, before and during the nationwide protests, before and after the May 12 elections.

The BSP leader, who led his party to second place in the elections but through the isolation in Parliament of Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party now has been at the core of shaping the next government, dwelt at length at what he saw as the disastrous socio-economic situation in which – in his view – Borissov and his lieutenant Tsvetan Tsvetanov had left Bulgaria.

As Stanishev enumerated his heads of argument, there was a sense of déjà vu, back to 2009 when, freshly in office as head of government, Borissov had indicted the tripartite coalition that Stanishev had led as prime minister for what Borissov saw as that government’s abject failure in the face of the global financial crisis.

Now, the boot on the other foot, Stanishev repeated – as so often in the past two weeks – that “two-thirds of Bulgarians had voted for change”, meaning that they had voted for parties other than GERB.

His socialist Coalition for Bulgaria had decided to accept its responsibility, Stanishev said, to come up with a “programme government” with an appropriate programme for change in the economic and social sphere.

Again, Stanishev underlined that this new Parliament, the 42nd National Assembly, was starting out with a low stock of confidence, but the previous one had had none at all.

Stanishev said that, before the announcement of the cabinet, there had been “intensive consultations” with parties inside and outside of Parliament. He wanted this new government to have support that was as broad-based as possible.

He hinted darkly that what GERB wanted, instead, was destabilisation, massive street protests – a reference by the socialist leader to the scenario against Borissov that had brought down the GERB government ahead of term.

Across the board in Bulgaria, in the view of Stanishev, nothing was right – not electricity prices, not incomes, not anything else.

Now was a time for a process of healing, of dialogue, new ideas, new personalities, who wanted things in Bulgaria to change, he said.

Specialists, even leaders’

It was then left to Oresharski to introduce what he said would be a government appropriate to the requirements of the socio-economic situation. Its members, he said, were “all specialists in their field, even leaders”.

There would be two deputy prime ministers, he said, one in charge of justice and the management of EU funds, the other in charge of economic matters, especially the co-ordination of private investment, domestic and foreign.

As had been telegraphed by media reports of leaks from the socialists, the cabinet would not be restructured, because – according to Oresharski – this would mean a loss of time, months, perhaps more, he said, when there were serious urgent needs to be addressed, for instance in the economy and energy sector. As to the latter, as before in recent days, Oresharski spoke of the need for “rebalancing” of the energy sector. He also announced that there would be a separate ministry in charge of investment projects.

Trick or treat

Not everything about the day had quite gone according to the socialists’ script.

It had announced that there would be consultations on the morning of May 27, with three political parties that had not made it into Parliament and with one that did – Ataka.

But Ataka and its “experts” did not show up, leaving observers wondering whether this was a stunt by Volen Siderov’s ultra-nationalist party to pointedly keep its distance from the process of the formation of the new government.

In Parliament, after all, Siderov had told both GERB and the BSP (and by extension, Ataka’s bête-noire, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms), “we will be your nightmare”.

The no-show by the nightmare left, it seemed, almost everyone wondering what would happen should, as expected, the cabinet reach the point of being put to the vote in Parliament on May 28.

The first part of the Tuesday schedule was straightforward and confirmed. Oresharski, who ultimately on May 23 received the mandate to seek to form a government, was scheduled to meet President Rossen Plevneliev at 9am to present the results of these efforts.

But the question, for now, remained as to what would happen in the 42nd National Assembly. Together, the BSP and MRF have 120 out of 240 seats, GERB has 97 and Ataka the rest.

While technically the government can be voted into existence without requiring the much-spoken-of 121 votes out of 240, it remained to be seen whether and how the business of the vote would proceed – whether, for instance, one or another party might seek to deny the House a quorum.

Borissov himself voiced his own doubts about how matters would go, voicing suspicions that there would be a “trick” – involving Ataka, in Borissov’s view – to get the proposed Oresharski cabinet voted into office.




Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.