Bulgarian centre-right Reformist Bloc has formally returned the mandate to form a new government on December 21, ensuring that snap parliamentary elections would be held in the spring of 2017.
Talks between the bloc and outgoing prime minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB, as well as the nationalist Patriotic Front – the three parliamentary groups that formed the bulk of the parliamentary majority backing Borissov’s Cabinet since November 2014 – failed to produce agreement on a policy programme.
MP Roumen Hristov, deputy leader of the Union of Democratic Forces, one of the constituent parties of the Reformist Bloc coalition, said that the earnest attempt to form a new cabinet were motivated by desire to maintain stability in Bulgaria and ensure that preparations for Bulgaria to host the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union in 2018 remain on track.
Reports in Bulgarian media said that the biggest stumbling block in the talks was the demand by the Patriotic Front to increase the minimum monthly pension to 200 leva, or about 102 euro. According to outgoing finance minister Vladislav Goranov, this would have increased Budget spending by 1.3 billion leva.
Accepting the return of the mandate, Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev thanked the Reformist Bloc for its attempt to form a government. The two largest parties that Plevneliev previously gave a mandate to, GERB and the opposition socialists, both returned their respective mandates right after receiving them.
“Clearly, the constitutional procedure is over and we are heading for early parliamentary elections,” Plevneliev said. He was scheduled to make a statement later in the day, at which he was expected to say whether he would appoint a caretaker Cabinet – his third during the five years as president – or allow the outgoing Borissov administration to continue to function on a caretaker basis.
Under Bulgaria’s constitution, the sitting president cannot dissolve Parliament and call new elections in the last three months of their term. Plevneliev has one month left, meaning it will be president-elect Roumen Radev that will have to set the date of the snap polls after he takes office on January 22.
The sequence of events involving attempts to form a government – or refusal to do so – follows the resignation of Borissov as prime minister because his party’s candidate was defeated in Bulgaria’s November 2016 presidential elections.