Boiko Borissov, leader of centre-right GERB – winner of the largest number of seats in Bulgaria’s new Parliament – says that he will definitely not accept negotiations towards a coalition that is “anti” any party because this could create “a huge ethnic problem”.
This was a clear reference to the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, a party led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity and which has long had an influential place in Bulgarian public life.
Borissov, whose party is conducting talks with all other parties in the 43rd National Assembly elected on October 5, has declined to accept MRF participation in a possible coalition government.
In turn, a number of parties that could be possible coalition partners or supporters of a GERB minority government have insisted that the MRF should have no part in power, rejecting the MRF as a key element in a political power structure that brings together a nexus of political, business and media interests.
By the end of October 16, a GERB negotiating team had met four other parties – the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the MRF, the centre-right Reformist Bloc and the ultra-nationalist Patriotic Front.
As had been expected, the talks with the BSP and the MRF resulted in no deal on formal public support for or participation in a GERB government.
The October 15 meeting with the Reformist Bloc ended in what may be described in the gentlest terms as inconclusiveness. It remains an open question whether a deal between GERB and the Reformist Bloc will prove possible.
Borissov, interviewed by mass-circulation daily 24 Chassa, said, “we have always been supporters and pillars of ethnic tolerance and in any event will not allow the incitement of xenophobic attitudes”.
He said that to not invite party into government was one thing, “but to form an ‘anti’ coalition is another”.
So far, the only political coalition to indicate willingness to support a GERB-led coalition is the Patriotic Front, which has a decided anti-MRF stance and has publicly welcomed GERB’s refusal to accept MRF support.
Borissov said that for a year, “we experienced what it is to form an anti-GERB coalition”.
He was referring to the events of May 2013. After the ahead-of-term elections of the time, GERB won the most votes – but found itself in a National Assembly where the three other parties (the BSP, MRF and far-right ultra-nationalists Ataka) were adamant that Borissov should not reprise his role as prime minister.
The result was the debacle that was the “Oresharski” cabinet, made up of so-called “experts” appointed on the basis of the mandate that was handed to the BSP, which ran second in the election.
That cabinet eventually left office, utterly discredited, after public protests and a rout for the BSP in May 2014 European Parliament elections.
Borissov told 24 Chassa that he was pleased to see that in the past few days, all parties in Parliament had shown a desire for a new attitude to politics and a regard for responsibility towards the voters.
This gave credit to his party’s efforts towards achieving a stable government, Borissov said.
The GERB leader, who procedurally will be handed the first offer of a mandate to seek to form a government, said that he had understood from his party’s negotiators that the Patriotic Front had “behaved responsibly” and on some of the topics, understanding had been achieved between GERB and the Patriotic Front.
But, Borissov said, there were some questions that were difficult to overcome with the Patriotic Front and with parties with which consultations had been held previously.
“So I will walk the path to the end of consultations,” Borissov said.
He said that on October 20, he would call together all the mayors, heads of municipal councils, GERB MEPs, MPs and the executive committee of his party and discuss “what brings us together and what separates the individual parties”.
“Of course, we have to see whether there will be a mathematical majority, because even with the Reformist Bloc and the Patriotic Front, the majority will still be fragile,” Borissov was quoted as saying.
Bulgaria’s unicameral Parliament, the National Assembly, has 240 seats and command of 50 per cent plus one would be the bare minimum to inaugurate a government.
The 43rd National Assembly will hold its first meeting on October 27, President Rossen Plevneliev has announced.
Following the consultations with parties required by the constitution and the formal formation of parliamentary groups – in the new Parliament, there will be eight – Plevneliev will hand an official mandate to the prime minister-designate of the largest group, GERB’s Borissov, to seek to form a government.
Should Borissov fail, the mandate would go to the second-largest group, the BSP – widely seen as having no chance of forming a government, and then to a third party of Plevneliev’s choice.
Should this three-step process produce no cabinet which the National Assembly would vote to approve, the constitution obliges the President to dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections.