At a formal ceremony at the Presidency in Sofia on November 5, President Rossen Plevneliev handed GERB party leader Boiko Borissov a mandate to seek to form a government.
Borissov, who won the largest share of votes in early parliamentary elections a month earlier, said that he would come back either on November 6 or 7 – either to say that he had come up with a government or that he had not.
The GERB leader, who was prime minister of Bulgaria from 2009 to early 2013, faces serious challenges in achieving a coalition that will have sufficient support in the new eight-party 43rd National Assembly.
His party has a deal with the centre-right minority coalition the Reformist Bloc, but together GERB and the Reformist Bloc’s votes come to only 107 out of 240, less than the more than half of MPs that would be needed in a planned November 7 to approve the government.
Eleventh-hour trilateral talks were being held at 2pm on November 5 involving GERB, the Reformist Bloc and the nationalist Patriotic Front to try to secure PF support.
The PF had appeared to be on board but in a late-night statement on November 4, said that it for now could not support a proposed GERB-Reformist Bloc cabinet because PF demands were not to be found in the two-party coalition cabinet’s programme declaration.
Borissov, answering questions from reporters after the mandate was handed to him, said that he was appealing to the Movement for Rights and Freedoms not to support his proposed government “because this generates huge speculation and gives my opponents the opportunity to make up any scenarios”.
Given that GERB had asked the MRF not to vote for this government, given that the Bulgarian Socialist Party had said they would vote against it, as had Ataka and Bulgaria Without Censorship (BWC, now calling itself “Bulgarian Democratic Centre”) the only option for Borissov was a deal with the Reformist Bloc and the Patriotic Front.
Borissov disclosed that at noon, an hour before the meeting with President Plevneliev, he had received a call from Geoffrey van Orden – a conservative MEP who formerly was rapporteur on Bulgaria in the European Parliament during the country’s EU accession process – proposing that BWC should support the government.
Borissov said that GERB and the Reformist Bloc had proved themselves capable of compromising to achieve agreement. He said that GERB disliked the bloc and the bloc disliked GERB but the situation called for compromise.
“If we do not reach an understanding today with the Reformists, and the Patriotic Front does not support the government, what kind of cabinet could we possibly do?” Borissov said.
He said that by November 6, it would be clear whether a government would be formed or not.
In terms of the constitution, Borissov has a seven-day deadline to return with a proposed cabinet or to give up the mandate.
Plevneliev said that the Bulgarian people did not want new elections, and it was a day for compromise and leadership.