Bulgaria’s unicameral Parliament, the National Assembly, is provisionally scheduled to vote on GERB leader Boiko Borissov’s proposed cabinet on November 7 2014, just more than a month after early elections that saw GERB win the largest share of seats in Parliament but not enough to govern alone.
On November 5, along with expectations that the afternoon would see head of state President Rossen Plevneliev hand Borissov a formal mandate to seek to form a government, talks were continuing on support for a cabinet headed by Borissov, who previously was Bulgaria’s prime minister from 2009 to early 2013.
In its current form, the coalition cabinet is made up of nominees from GERB and the centre-right minority coalition the Reformist Bloc. Headed by Borissov, the cabinet will have three deputy prime ministers – two from GERB and one from the Reformist Bloc – and 18 cabinet ministers, six of them from the bloc.
However, it was not immediately clear, in the hours before the Plevneliev-Borissov meeting, which parties would be voting in favour on November 7, even though it appeared fairly clear that through one combination or another, GERB would have sufficient support to go into government.
For some days, it appeared that the combination that would carry the GERB-Reformist Bloc coalition cabinet over the threshold of the votes required to take office would be what Bulgarian headline-writers call the “2+2” formula.
This means two in the cabinet – GERB and the Reformist Bloc – and two not necessarily in the cabinet but part of a deal to support it – the nationalist Patriotic Front (PF) and socialist breakaway minority party ABC.
However, in a late-night statement on November 4, the Patriotic Front said that it could not see its way clear to supporting the GERB-Reformist Bloc cabinet because the PF did not see its ideas that it had agreed on with GERB included in the coalition cabinet’s programme declaration.
Clarifying the PF’s stance in a breakfast television interview on November 5, PF co-leader Valeri Simeonov said that the declaration, circulated by GERB and the Reformist Bloc to other parties in a bid to get their support, failed to include commitments to change election law, a commitment to a full “energy audit” (which Simeonov claims would lead to the price of electricity going down), limitations on illegal immigrants and a border fence the full length of the border with Turkey, stopping deforestation and a limit on child benefits for children older than three.
GERB, the Reformist Bloc and PF negotiators were to meet at 2pm on November 5 to discuss the issue of the programme declaration.
Reformist Bloc parliamentary group co-leader Radan Kanev was quoted by local media as saying that he saw “nothing alarming” in the PF demands.
The trilateral meeting has a scheduled starting time an hour later than the consultations between President Plevneliev and GERB leader Borissov.
Georgi Purvanov’s ABC has been offered a seat in the cabinet, with parliamentary group leader Ivailo Kalfin – formerly an MEP for the Bulgarian Socialist Party and before than deputy prime minister and foreign minister in the 2005/09 BSP-led tripartite coalition cabinet – tipped to be social policy minister, should ABC accept the deal.
On the morning of November 5, Kalfin told reporters that ABC had items that it wanted included in the programme declaration, and could participate in government if this happened.
Kalfin listed some of the key demands of ABC as including pension reform, a new Election Act and changes to the tax system. However, given that ABC wants a “progressive” taxation system to replace the current flat tax system – a proposal that is anathema to GERB and to the Reformists in particular – it is difficult to see how the intended coalition government partners could give ground to ABC on the issue.
“The first option is to seek agreement today and prepare amendments to the programme if they are accepted, then we will look for ways to participate in government. The second option is that if they decide that there is no basis for agreement with us, then, as I understand it, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms is ready to support the government, but for us it is important to have a government,” Kalfin said.
Also on November 5, minority party Bulgaria Without Censorship, which now calls itself the Bulgarian Democratic Centre, said that it would not have signed a blank cheque for a future government but could support it if this was achieved through normal negotiations.
After first-round meetings with almost all other parties in the new, 43rd National Assembly, GERB dumped BWC – a populist party formed around a former television talk show host – as a possible partner.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party is expected to vote against Borissov’s proposed cabinet.
That leaves the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which has 38 MPs, double the number of the PF.
After the first round of talks after the elections, GERB said that it did not want to be in government with the MRF nor did it want its support.
MRF leader Lyutvi Mestan has said that he would be prepared to give his party’s support to a new Borissov government for a grace period of 300 days – later amending this to 600 days – provided that a government stuck to “Euro-Atlantic values” and was not dependent on the support of the PF.