The first official meeting between Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB and the nationalist United Patriots for talks on a coalition government has produced agreement that Borissov will be Prime Minister.
The talks were held in the National Assembly building on April 4, as a sequel to the March 26 parliamentary elections which saw Borissov’s GERB party win 95 seats in the National Assembly, giving it the right to the first mandate to seek to form a government.
The United Patriots came in third, with 27 out of 240 seats in the National Assembly, raising the possibility of a cabinet made up of GERB and the United Patriots, which together have just enough seats in Parliament for a government to be voted in.
Borissov attended the April 4 talks for more than an hour. Unlike in the negotiations on a coalition cabinet in 2014, he has taken personal charge of the current negotiating team.
Ataka leader Volen Siderov, one of the three co-leaders of the United Patriots coalition, told reporters that so far ministerial posts had not been allocated. Discussions were focusing on the points in a governance programme.
There will be further talks by the end of the week.
Siderov said that the talks had been constructive. He declined to say whether the coalition government would involve two or three partners.
Since the elections, there has been extensive talk that the coalition might involve the new National Assembly’s smallest party, Vesselin Mareshki’s Volya, which has a mere 12 MPs but could bolster the sustainability of the government in Parliament. Mareshki has spoken of wanting his party to hold various strategically-important portfolios, including the energy and foreign ministries.
GERB negotiator Delyan Dobrev told reporters that the new government would have a clear term of office of four years. “There is no dispute as to who will be Prime Minister,” Dobrev said.
This statement came about a day after United Patriots co-leader Valeri Simeonov said that the Prime Minister should be someone other than Borissov.
Borissov has been Bulgaria’s Prime Minister twice before, from 2009 to 2013 and again from 2014 to early 2017. Both of his terms ended prematurely in his resignation from office.
Borissov told reporters after the talks, “I hope that the other parties realise that if we fail, everyone fails”.
According to Borissov, the United Patriots had assured him that a coalition with the Bulgarian Socialist Party would have been impossible, which meant that if GERB could not form a government, no one could.
Indicating that such failure would mean new elections, Borissov said that this would again mean loss of time, spending of money on an election and the state being tied up in knots.
He said that his only requirement of the United Patriots was that they should participate in the government, in a real way.
“With the patriots, we have 122 MPs, enough for a coalition. My sole requirement towards them is to enter in a real way into participation in the cabinet,” Borissov said, noting that he did not want what had happened in 2014, when the Patriotic Front supported his coalition government in the National Assembly without holding cabinet seats.
Borissov said that one of the United Patriots’ requirements, that had been agreed on in the talks, was for the coalition to serve out a full term in office and no participate should alone trigger early parliamentary elections.
He said that the United Patriots had not so far set out specific requirements for the number of cabinet seats they wanted, or which portfolios.
“I am please that the colleagues are very responsible. Now we have to find a reasonable compromise based on the programmes and the experts,” Borissov said.