Bulgaria’s rocky road to a new governing coalition

After Bulgaria’s October 5 2014 early parliamentary elections, the country faces a rocky road to achieving a new governing coalition, with some casting doubt on whether it may get there at all.

The morning after provisional results showed Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party winning the largest single share of votes, senior party figures insisted that the party’s approach would be to seek to form a government with Borissov as prime minister.

Local media quoted senior GERB member Roumyana Buchvarova as saying that the party would seek support for a future coalition government from the Reformist Bloc and the Patriotic Front.

Regarding GERB, which also won the largest share of votes in early parliamentary elections in May 2013, but was unable to form a government, the situation in October 2014 may seem reminiscent. However, there are differences.

In May 2013, GERB entered a four-party parliament in which it had no allies with which to form a government, the other three all pledged to keep Borissov from returning to power. In October 2014, with an eight-party parliament, the task is not impossible, but it will have – to say the least – its awkwardnesses.

The Reformist Bloc appears to be holding to its position that it cannot serve in a cabinet in which Borissov is prime minister. At the same time, the centre-right, five-party formation has indicated that wants the formal mandate-offering and negotiation process to start, and may support a government that endorses the bloc’s programme.

In turn, it is no surprise that there is political enmity between the Reformist Bloc and the Patriotic Front. Formed of far-right and ultra-nationalist parties, the Patriotic Front hardly appears politically compatible with the Reformist Bloc.

To that it may be added that Bulgaria has recent memories of politically strange bedfellows, in the disastrous cabinet of May 2013-August 2014 that was held in place by the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), a party led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity, and Ataka, Volen Siderov’s party that always has had opposition to “neo-Ottoman” rule as one of its principal platforms.

On election night, the MRF’s Lyutvi Mestan spoke of the need to build a stable government around a national consensus, a clear hint that a future GERB government may have a less formal deal for MRF support in the National Assembly.

Speaking at an October 6 news conference, Patriotic Front co-leader Valeri Simeonov said that the coalition was open for dialogue and was setting no preconditions. He added that there was a need to achieve a national consensus to solve the country’s pressing problems. But the Patriotic Front would have no dialogue with the MRF, which Simeonov described as the “one of the most deformed phenomena of the transition period in Bulgaria”.

Tsetska Tsacheva, a senior GERB member who was Speaker of the National Assembly from 2009 to early 2013 when Borissov was prime minister, said that GERB would hold talks with all parties in the new Parliament that supported the European development of Bulgaria.

Buchvarova said, as Borissov had done the previous night, that GERB did not want to be in government with the MRF.
Borissov himself said on the night of October 5 that he did not see, with the configuration of parties in the new parliament, how a governing coalition could be formed. However, whether that was merely a melodramatic gesture in grandstanding before negotiations remains to be seen.

Lilyana Pavlova, another senior GERB member who is a former cabinet minister and was poised to become a deputy prime minister just as Borissov’s party resigned from government in early 2013, said that if the party’s attempts to form a government failed, it would hand back the mandate (an admittedly obvious step given the provisions of the constitution).

This would put the mandate in the hands of the second-ranked Bulgarian Socialist Party, whose performance on October 5 2014 was even worse than in the May 2014 European Parliament elections that were a catalyst in its downfall from government. Unlike May 2013, when it ran second but managed to win some electoral regions, this time round the BSP lost everywhere.

Should matters come to that, another BSP-MRF deal, a repeat of the downhill road from May 2013, seems improbable.

Georgi Bliznashki, caretaker Prime Minister, said on October 6 that he did not expect that forming a new government would be an easy task and called for common sense, wisdom and goodwill on the part of the major political forces.

Asked whether he would stay on for a few more months as caretaker Prime Minister, Bliznashki said that he was not ready for such an experiment.



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.