Bulgaria’s political crisis: Borissov, Patriotic Front, set conditions for supporting Reformist Bloc attempt at forming government

Bulgaria’s winter 2016 political drama took a new twist as Boiko Borissov and the nationalist Patriotic Front set their conditions for supporting a Reformist Bloc attempt to form a new government.

Borissov, whose November resignation precipitated the issue of whether the country will go to parliamentary elections in 2017 or will see a new government formed, told reporters that he could support the bloc’s attempts to set up a new cabinet if they agreed to a rewrite of the electoral law to introduce a majoritarian element.

Referring to the November 2016 referendum, which saw majority support for a majoritarian system for electing MPs – though turnout in the referendum was too low to be binding on Parliament – Borissov said that it was worth taking a “little time” to adopt an electoral law in line with the referendum.

“Whether we leave these ministers in place, whether there are others, an option will be found. Otherwise, these elections will not be legitimate.”

Borissov indicated, however, that he was against what voters had supported in the referendum, saying that he favoured the French system by which the first round of parliamentary elections was held on a majoritarian basis and the second round a competition among all those who got 12.5 per cent at the first round.

He confirmed that he would hold talks with the Reformist Bloc on the morning of December 19, the day of the deadline for the bloc to come up with a government.

On December 13, the Reformist Bloc became the third and final parliamentary group to be offered an exploratory mandate by President Rossen Plevneliev. Should the attempt fail, Plevneliev should appoint a government. His successor, Roumen Radev, who will take office as head of state on January 22, will be empowered to dissolve the National Assembly and decree a date for early parliamentary elections.

On December 16, Roumen Hristov, deputy leader of the Union of Democratic Forces – the constituent party of the bloc that is keen on trying to form a government within the current Parliament – expressed hope that a government would be formed, calling for national interests to be put above political party ones.

“I think that they will find the strength in themselves to put aside specific party interests, because the Patriotic Front would benefit from early elections, and so would GERB to some extent, but the interests of the state should be above those of the party,” Hristov told public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio.

I think they will find the strength in himself to put aside specific political interests because the Patriotic Front benefit from early elections to some extent GERD, but state interests should be above party.

The candidate prime minister should come from GERB, Hristov said.

Responding to Borissov’s comments about the electoral system, Hristov said that the vote in the referednum should be respected by the introduction of a mixed system, half of MPs elected via proportional representation and half via a majoritarian vote.

On December 16, Patriotic Front co-leader Valeri Simeonov reiterated the nationalist grouping’s conditions for supporting any new government in this Parliament – increasing minimum pensions, reviewing the contracts of the US-owned thermal power plants and reform of the refugee centres.

These demands were fully achievable, Simeonov said.

“We want the centres that accommodate migrants to be moved out of populated areas. They must be fully dated. Further, we want the contracts with the so-called American plants to be checked carefully. These are fully achievable things,” he said.

Simeonov said that representatives of the Reformist Bloc and the Patriotic Front had met this week to discuss the topic of a new government.

He said that Borissov’s opinion on the matter had “changed several times”. The decisions by GERB and the Bulgarian Socialist Party to refuse the exploratory mandates that Plevneliev had offered them “demonstrated a lack of responsibility,” Simeonov said.

He opposed the introduction of a majoritarian system for electing MPs.

“If you introduce a majoritarian vote, up to one or two parties will get into Parliament. Then, corporate players, gangsters, pop-folk singers, footballers, will get in, and what kind of decisions would such a Parliament take then?” Simeonov said.

Speaking on December 16, GERB parliamentary group leader Tsvetan Tsvetanov, who a day earlier had rated the chances of forming an elected government in this Parliament at about 20 per cent, now said that the chances were above 20 per cent.

Tsvetanov said that a majoritarian system should be introduced as people had requested in the November referendum.

If it came to forming a government, “that may be one of our main motives, that within the coming months an electoral law could be done which is actually consistent with what has happened and with what society expects,” he said.

At the moment, there was no single solution around which everyone could unite, Tsvetanov said.

According to Tsvetanov, Borissov had been told by leaders at the heads of EU government meeting in Brussels that they wanted to see what had been done in Bulgaria so far continued.

“Extremely high marks were given to the government’s policies and other European leaders were asking why, given that the financial and economic indicators of our country are among the best in the EU, we are going to early elections,” Tsvetanov said.




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.