The centre-right Reformist Bloc was due to meet on October 8 to debate its position on coalition government negotiations with the winner of the largest share of votes in Bulgaria’s parliamentary elections, Boiko Borissov’s GERB.
For the Reformist Bloc, which ran fourth in the October 5 elections and pending final official results is estimated to be set for 23 out of 240 MPs in the 43rd National Assembly, the issue is the topic of serious internal divisions, however much the bloc denies this.
The bloc, made up of five parties, was caught up in in-fighting over the question of relations with Borissov’s GERB in the months before the elections, which all polls saw GERB as certain to win.
The reality after the elections has made matters even more difficult.
GERB won the most votes and will have an estimated 84 MPs, well short of the minimum 121 that Borissov said he wanted, claiming before the elections that if his party had less than half-plus-one of the seats in the National Assembly, he would not even attempt to form a government.
However, GERB is now to go ahead with trying to form a minority government, and has said it intends to hold talks with all seven of the other parties that won seats.
For the Reformist Bloc, the issue is not only about whether and how it works with Borissov in supporting a coalition, but also would face the issue of whether it would be able to work with other parties that Borissov might recruit to support a government. Some of the possible combinations being floated are hardly on the basis of natural political compatibility.
Mathematics aside, matters have not been made easier for the Reformist Bloc by the public statements of some of its leaders.
Bozhidar Lukarski, leader of the Union of Democratic Forces, a bloc constituent party, was the subject of calls on social networks on October 8 after he was reported to have said that the bloc’s stance before the elections that it would not accept Borissov as prime minister or Tsvetan Tsvetanov as interior minister had been a “trick” to win votes.
Also on October 8, Meglena Kouneva, leader of Bulgaria for Citizens, another bloc constituent party, said that there were some women in GERB that could be consensus figures as prime minister, but GERB had no proposal for this post other than Borissov.
“If GERB puts forward Borissov as prime minister, we have no other alternative,” Kouneva said in a bTV television interview.
The same morning, unconfirmed reports in Bulgarian-language media said that 13 out the bloc’s 23 MPs were “ok” with Borissov being prime minister.
However, before and after the October 5 vote, Radan Kanev – leader of the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, a bloc constituent party – has repeated that the bloc would not accept Borissov as prime minister.
Petar Moskov, elected as a Reformist Bloc MP, said in a local media interview on October 8 that “not one” bloc MP would support a GERB minority government and criticised Kouneva’s statement implying support for Borissov becoming prime minister.
As an experienced negotiator, Kouneva (who was chief negotiator on Bulgaria’s entry to the EU) should know better, according to Moskov, who said that one went into negotiations with a full set of demands, giving up on none in advance.
“That means that with 84 MPs you cannot make a government,” Moskov told Nova Televizia.
Moskov said that the important thing was to have a consensus figure as prime minister.
The elections had not been a referendum “for or against” Borissov, Moskov said.
The optimum option for stability in the country in the next two years was a three-way coalition, and the most possible option was for joint action between GERB, the Reformist Bloc and the Patriotic Front. Should this be the possibility, “we have to be aware that such a coalition can happen only on the basis of clearly defined priorities”.
On Lukarski’s reported “trick” statement, Moskov said, “If Mr. Lukarski participated in a trick, that’s his problem. This does not mean that the bloc is lying, it means that some of the people during the election campaign may have lied”.