President Radev’s talks with Bulgarian parties fail to provide Cabinet clarity

Bulgarian President Roumen Radev held consultations on April 19 with six political parties and coalitions represented in the 45th National Assembly, but the talks offered little clarity on whether the new legislature could vote a new government into office.

Radev said that he held the meetings as part of the constitutional procedure, without meaning them to be seen as “pushing the process in any specific direction” or himself serving as “the architect of a future coalition and government.”

The introductory remarks in each meeting were open to the media, but the rest of the talks, lasting under one hour in each case, were not made public.

Acting Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev, representing the GERB-Union of Democratic Forces coalition that won the largest number votes at the April 4 election, said that GERB would nominate a government, but might not seek an investiture vote if there is no support for its proposed Cabinet.

So far, all other parties in Parliament have said that they would not back a GERB government. “There is the option that we return the mandate [to form a government], we do not want to waste time,” Donchev told reporters after the meeting.

Daniel Mitov, whom GERB plans to nominate for Prime Minister, said that the line-up of the proposed Cabinet would be made public “within days” of receiving the mandate and a decision on whether to return it would be made based on the talks with other parties.

Under Bulgaria’s constitutional procedures, Radev must offer the exploratory mandate to the largest party in the National Assembly. If it is unable or unwilling to form a Cabinet, a mandate is then presented to the second-largest party, which would be cable television presenter Slavi Trifonov’s ITN.

Trifonov and his party have kept quiet on their plans in the two weeks since the election and the party’s parliamentary leader Toshko Yordanov did not offer any clarity, saying that ITN would say what it would do only when presented with the mandate.

Yordanov also re-iterated Trifonov’s electoral promise not to enter into coalition with any of the parties represented in the previous legislature, leaving only Democratic Bulgaria and the coalition around former ombudsman Maya Manolova as potential government partners.

Bulgarian President Roumen Radev, right, holds talks with ITN parliamentary group officials on April 19 2021. Photo:

Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) leader Kornelia Ninova, however, once again offered to vote for a Cabinet nominated by Trifonov’s party, provided such support was sought and certain conditions were met, but without being part of the government.

The conditions listed by Ninova were quick measures to overcome the economic and health crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, a “revision of Borissov’s government”, changes to the Electoral Code, as well as Bulgaria’s draft plan for the NextGeneration EU recovery fund, but she did not give additional details regarding the specific goals in any of those areas.

Asked if the BSP was prepared to nominate a government – Radev can choose to hand the third exploratory mandate to any party in Parliament if the first two are unsuccessful – Ninova said that in such a scenario, the party’s executive leadership would meet to decide on how to proceed.

Predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) leader Mustafa Karadayi also offered to support a government nominated by Trifonov and ruled out backing any Cabinet proposed by GERB or BSP, whom he described as the “parties that lost the election.”

Democratic Bulgaria’s Hristo Ivanov said that his coalition had an “ambitious plan” for solving the country’s health, economic and institutional crises, but as the fifth-largest party in Parliament, its efforts would be focused on a “responsible attempt to form a government with the mandate of the second-largest party.”

After the meeting, Ivanov did not rule out new parliamentary elections and said that the National Assembly should, in addition to the talks about government formation, focus on changes to the electoral law that would ensure that any snap polls would be held “in a better way.”

Representatives of the coalition between former ombudsman Maya Manolova and “The Poison Trio” organisers of the anti-government protests in summer 2020 also re-iterated their opposition to a GERB government and said that they were open to supporting a Cabinet backed by Trifonov’s party and Democratic Bulgaria.

Bulgaria’s constitution gives political parties one week to nominate a government after being given a mandate by the president, but sets no limits on the amount of time before handing the mandates.

Radev has scheduled a ceremony to hand the first exploratory mandate to the Prime Minister-designate nominated by the largest party in the 45th National Assembly for 1pm on April 20.

(Top photo, of Radev meeting GERB officials for consultations on the government formation:

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