Bulgaria’s political crisis: Cracks in Reformist Bloc over government formation attempt become even clearer

The cracks in Bulgaria’s centre-right Reformist Bloc coalition over an attempt to form a government became even clearer on December 15 as one of the bloc’s constituent parties, Meglena Kouneva’s Bulgaria for Citizens Movement, threatened to oppose the attempt unless Parliament’s legal committee adopts Kouneva’s anti-corruption bill.

On December 13, the Reformist Bloc became the third and final parliamentary group offered a mandate by President Rossen Plevneliev to form a government in the wake of Boiko Borissov’s resignation as Prime Minister.

The bloc has until December 19 to come up with a government that could have sufficient support in the current Parliament. Failure would trigger the next step set out in the constitution, the appointment of a caretaker government – and ultimately, early parliamentary elections in spring 2017.

From the time the Reformist Bloc accepted the mandate, it was clear that it was constituent party the Union of Democratic Forces that was largely the only one keen on the attempt.

Kouneva, one of the deputy prime ministers in the current government, has been trying for several months to get Parliament to debate and approve her anti-corruption bill. In September 2015, an attempt failed when it failed to get sufficient support at first reading. First-reading approval came on June 30 2016.

With the days of the current Parliament likely numbered – it may last no longer than late January, when Roumen Radev takes office as President and will be constitutionally empowered to dissolve it – it has been an open question whether Kouneva’s legislation will reach second-reading.

On December 15, she said that unless the legal committee gave its approval to the bill on December 20 (notably, a day after the bloc’s deadline to form a government expires), her party would not support the formation of a new government on the basis of the current Parliament.

On December 14, the bill was dropped from the agenda of the committee. This was proposed by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party and Movement for Rights and Freedoms, and nationalist Patriotic Front, arguing that there was too little time left to Parliament to process the legislation.

Kouneva expressed disappointment at the fact that yesterday not all MPs who are members of the committee were present to discuss the anti-corruption bill, which she described as the most important political legislation in Bulgaria.

The National Assembly had not actually been dissolved, and should show its usefulness, Kouneva said.

“For six months, this law has been standing around, and whoever wanted to could make proposals. Whoever wanted to has done so.”

On December 15, Tanya Busheva, a senior member of the agrarian party that is part of the Reformist Bloc, told local media in an interview: “We are aware of the responsibility with which we have been entrusted, to form a government. It is dangerous to run in a constant spiral of elections that do not bear the expected change for citizens.

“Bulgaria must remain politically stable, because we are witnessing an extremely tense international situation, such as the crisis with the flow or refugees.

“We urge all right-wing politicians to give a clear picture that the country is in a political crisis and to make joint efforts to form an expert government to work within this Parliament. Our goal is to make the institutions more efficient and working for the benefit of citizens,” Busheva said.

Tsvetan Tsvetanov, the head of the parliamentary group of Borissov’s GERB party, said that he saw the chance of a government being formed on the basis of the current Parliament as 20 per cent.

GERB will meet the Reformist Bloc representatives on December 18 or 19 for talks about the exploratory mandate.

“In these talks we will see if it’s possible to continue the policies that have been conducted in these past two years, or if someone thinks that a complete change can be made to the concept that we agreed on two years ago,” Tsvetanov said.

The Patriotic Front has said that it could support the attempt by the Reformist Bloc to support a government, provided there was agreement to adopt the front’s policies on issues such as significantly increased pensions and the minimum salary, and stricter security measures against illegal migration.



Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.