On election night, as exit polls gave Roumen Radev a landslide win in the presidential run-off on November 13, his first news conference once again was overshadowed by Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, who had announced his intention to resign earlier in the night.
Predictably, the issue of early parliamentary elections dominated the questions asked of Radev and Kornelia Ninova, leader of the opposition socialists, who backed him in the presidential race.
Ninova said that the Bulgarian Socialist Party would return the mandate to form a government, saying that the party did not have enough MPs in Parliament – it has 38 – to lead a government coalition. Asked whether the socialists would consider participating in a coalition led by another party, Ninova said that the party “will not accept any offers before early elections, in the current National Assembly, to participate in the government.”
Instead, the socialists will “fight to be the leading political force after the early elections and form a government then,” she said.
In the meantime, political parties in Parliament should focus on two tasks, namely adopting the 2017 Budget Act and “sit together to amend the electoral laws as people have asked for”, Ninova said, referring to the overwhelming support for introducing a majoritarian system of electing MPs and reducing state subsidies for parties, shown in the national referendum on November 6 (although the referendum fell just short of becoming mandatory, both the socialists and Borissov’s GERB said that they would put forth proposals to implement the referendum’s outcome).
On the issue of calling elections for a Grand National Assembly, the extended legislative body that can amend the constitution, which Borissov brought up in his own news conference earlier in the night, both Ninova and Radev dismissed the prospect, saying it was unlikely that a motion on this topic would reach the required two-thirds majority in the current parliament.
With Borissov resigning and no feasible prospect for another cabinet being formed, President Rossen Plevneliev will have to name a caretaker cabinet for a third time in his five-year term, but cannot dissolve Parliament, as the constitution bars the sitting president from doing so in the last three months of his term. President-elect Radev’s inauguration is on January 22 2017.
Asked whether he will have any input in the process, Radev pointed out that he had no powers to do so. He did say that he would accept Plevneliev’s invitation, extended earlier on election day to the winner of the run-off, to meet.
Radev was also asked whether he would support the lifting of sanctions on Russia, imposed after the annexation of Crimea. Again, he pointed out that the issue was the prerogative of the government, but said that he would work with the cabinet and other European leaders who have raised the prospect, in order to ensure the fall of sanctions against Moscow.
(Roumen Radev at the election night news conference on November 13 2016. Screengrab from Bulgarian National Television)