In spite of repeated insistence by GERB leader Boiko Borissov and Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Kornelia Ninova that they will not bring their two parties – the largest in the country – together in a broad coalition government, nationalist leader Valeri Simeonov has stimulated talk on that very topic.
The comments by United Patriots co-leader Simeonov, that it was his personal view that the best thing for Bulgaria in forming a government after this past Sunday’s elections would be a coalition of GERB, the BSP and his group, gave the Bulgarian media something to chatter about in the absence of any other statements of substance.
Media reports, unconfirmed by their nature, claimed that the respective political groupings at European level had been suggesting to their member parties in Bulgaria – GERB and the BSP – that they co-operate in a deal similar to that seen in the sharing out of posts in EU institutions.
Such a deal also would also be predicated on the reported discomfort among the EU-level centre-right European People’s Party about Borissov’s government involving a far-right political formation.
One report, citing what it called the example of a broad German-style coalition, went as far as to claim that current caretaker deputy prime minister Stefan Yanev could be appointed as head of a government that would be supported by GERB, the BSP and the “patriots”. Some other caretaker ministers also would survive into this putative administration, it claimed.
Simeonov, in a television interview, said that Borissov should allow former Speaker of the National Assembly Mihail Mikov – Ninova’s predecessor as BSP leader – to return to Parliament’s chair, as a gesture to ease tensions between GERB and the BSP (what that would do for tensions in the BSP is a matter of speculation, but so is all of this). Both Borissov and Ninova should renounce their aspirations to be Prime Minister, Simeonov said.
The United Patriots leader, whose group will be the third-largest in the new National Assembly and which has been seen as the most likely first, if not only, choice of coalition government partner for GERB, was derisive about Vesselin Mareshki and his Volya party.
Mareshki, whose Volya made it into Parliament with a mere 12 out of 240 seats, also has been seen as part of a possible deal to increase the parliamentary majority that would support a new government. GERB and the United Patriots would have only about 122 MPs, only just over the number required to support a government.
The Volya leader has let it be known that his opening bid is to be named Prime Minister and has made public his shopping list of Cabinet portfolios, which includes the energy and foreign ministries, among others.
Simeonov said that he did not trust Mareshki’s party, describing it as an “ambiguous player”, a “non-systemic, nebulous and unpredictable political entity”, with which he would find it difficult to be in the same coalition.
He poured scorn not only on Mareshki’s aspirations to occupy the Prime Minister’s chair but also that Volya’s platform was solely to reduce the prices of fuel and pharmaceuticals (cut-price petrol and medicines being the thing Mareshki has been best known for, and in his campaign, he repeatedly emphasised how Bulgarians would benefit in these respects when he was in government).
Those awaiting the formation of a government in Bulgaria will likely to have wait for some time.
GERB has indicated that it will not embark on formal negotiations before the beginning of next week.
No one should have any illusion that these negotiations – on agreed policies for governance, on a power-sharing formula, on the sharing out of portfolios and posts – are likely to be easy.
On a date not yet announced, head of state President Roumen Radev will hand Borissov a mandate to seek to form a government, triggering a deadline of seven days for Borissov to come back with a proposed administration that should have sufficient parliamentary support.
Should Borissov fail, the second mandate would be handed to Ninova. Neither the United Patriots nor Mareshki have ruled out serving in a BSP-led coalition government, and some even have indicated an openness to it. However, their combined numbers would not be enough to have a sufficient majority, and a deal with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms would be essential.
In this scenario, there would be a broad coalition, but effectively one that left GERB in the five-group 44th National Assembly as the sole opposition party, while also being the largest parliamentary group – a situation in some ways similar to that in the ill-fated Parliament that was elected in 2013.
To see the full results of Bulgaria’s March 26 2017 National Assembly elections, with all ballots counted, please click here.
For a timeline of key political events in Bulgaria from 2007 to 2017, please click here.