Talks were held on December 16 among Boiko Borissov’s GERB party, the nationalist Patriotic Front coalition and the Reformist Bloc on forming a new government, which would possibly see Borissov returning to the post of prime minister.
A possible line-up of this new government would see some Reformist Bloc figures depart from the administration, among them Defence Minister Nikolai Nenchev and Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Meglena Kouneva, and see the entry of Patriotic Front politicians.
Apart from the entry of at least one nationalist into the Cabinet, the line-up of ministers from GERB and the Reformist Bloc would look largely the same.
In the November 2014 deal that put the second Borissov government in place, the Patriotic Front agreed to support the government in Parliament without holding seats in the Cabinet.
Since that deal, the Reformist Bloc has split with the departure of Radan Kanev’s Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, which has gone into opposition, socialist breakaway ABC quit the government, and there has been a rapprochement among Bulgaria’s nationalist and far-right parties, with the PF and Volen Siderov’s Ataka co-operating under the “United Patriots” banner.
The Reformist Bloc is the holder, since December 14, of the third and final exploratory mandate to try to form a government.
Should a new government come to pass, and for this happen there would have to be a vote in the National Assembly before the Christmas recess begins on December 23, this would be the latest turnabout in the saga that began with Borissov’s resignation as head of government in November, after his party’s candidate was defeated in the presidential elections.
GERB has been insisting that it would not be a part of a new government, and turned down the first exploratory mandate offered by head of state President Rossen Plevneliev.
GERB’s parliamentary group voted against participating in a new government, and all indications were that the attempt by the faction of the Reformist Bloc that is keen on forming a cabinet and thus avoiding early elections were doomed to fail.
But on December 15, Borissov signalled willingness about possible participation in a new government, putting as a condition endorsement of the majoritarian electoral system idea that got majority support in an otherwise non-binding referendum in November.
Talks proceeded on Friday, with the Patriotic Front and Reformist Bloc reiterating their misgivings about a majoritarian system for parliamentary elections.
Most parties in the current National Assembly favour no more than a mixed system, possibly of a 50-50 split between MPs elected via proportional representation and those elected by majoritarian vote.
GERB parliamentary leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov, who earlier indicated that the party was meeting the Reformist Bloc largely as a courtesy and who said he saw chances of a new government in the current Parliament as no more than 20 per cent, on December 16 said he now assessed chances as higher than 20 per cent.
President Rossen Plevneliev has continually urged political parties to come up with a new government – which would avoid him having to appoint a caretaker government for the third time in his term of office, which comes to a close in January 2017.
Tsvetanov also indicated on Friday that, in Brussels, Borissov had been pressured by other European leaders who, given Bulgaria’s economic performance and its hitherto political stability, could not understand the reason to take the country to early parliamentary elections.
Parliament has already voted overwhelmingly to accept the resignation of Borissov’s government. He and his ministers have remained in office pending a resolution to the political situation.
Late on Friday, Bulgarian-language headline-writers were speculating giddily on a cabinet they dubbed “Borissov 3”. But given the twists and turns in the saga since the presidential elections, no prediction is safe.