Bulgaria: WCC begins formal bid for support for proposed government

Facing a deadline of July 8 at 5pm to come up with a proposed government, the We Continue the Change (WCC) party was holding talks on Saturday afternoon with the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and Democratic Bulgaria to agree on policies and support for the Cabinet it would nominate.

Assen Vassilev, WCC’s Prime Minister-designate, said on July 1 that the party did not yet have the support of the 121 MPs required to get a government voted into office.

To achieve 121, WCC needs not only the support of the BSP and Democratic Bulgaria, but also MPs from elsewhere in the House.

WCC is seeking support for a government that would have a governance programme for six months, though that does not necessarily mean that such a government would leave office after six months.

The WCC delegation for the talks is being led by outgoing Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, accompanied by Vassilev, WCC parliamentary leader Andrei Gyurov and the former Speaker of the National Assembly, Nikola Minchev.

The talks with the BSP and Democratic Bulgaria were held a day after President Roumen Radev handed WCC, as the largest parliamentary group, the first mandate to seek to form a government.

BSP leader Kornelia Ninova said at the start of the July 2 talks that she was glad that they could continue their talks and find a common path.

Earlier this week, Ninova broke off talks with WCC after Petkov’s announcement of the expulsion of 70 Russian diplomats. The BSP agreed to resume talks after WCC replaced Petkov as its candidate PM, meeting Ninova’s demand.

Ninova’s BSP agrees with WCC’s state priorities, such as the fight against corruption, but wants to supplement the governance programme in several areas, such as social policy, health care, education and the economy.

Vassilev, interviewed on Bulgarian National Television’s (BNT) weekly Panorama programme on July 1, said that whether Petkov would be a minister in the WCC’s proposed Cabinet would depend on the talks with the coalition partners and the party’s own decision.

“At the moment we are still looking for support for the programme of this Cabinet and the way it works. To start assembling a Cabinet before it is clear whether the programme and the way of conducting policies has support, is premature,” Vassilev said.

Innovation and Growth Minister Daniel Lorer, of WCC, told BNT on July 2 that he was optimistic about the formation of a new Cabinet within this Parliament.

Lorer said that Petkov would continue to be an active part of the government, but for now there was no thought about posts and positions.

“For us, both Kiril and Assen are the ones who started the change a year ago,” Lorer said, referring to the roles of Petkov and Vassilev in the first of the two caretaker governments in 2021.

“Both of them proved that the most important thing for them and for the entire Bulgarian society is to stop the thefts in order to have more income for the people.”

Lorer said that Vassilev had a very difficult mission: “Together with him, we must find out if there is a majority in the Bulgarian Parliament that is not afraid to stop the thefts.

“The question is, under the leadership of Assen, whether we can in one week convince a few more MPs to think about the future of our children, about the fact that a global recession is coming and Bulgaria must have a stable government,” Lorer said.

Democratic Bulgaria co-leader Hristo Ivanov, interviewed on BNT’s Panorama, said that the task of Vassilev was not just to find 121 MPs, but together with coalition partners to find a way for political consensus with other parties in Parliament.

“In fact, there is an opportunity to seek consensus. This does not mean unprincipled compromises and abandoning important positions, but seeing the reality that our country faces extremely difficult challenges, but also important opportunities. Such, for example, are relations with Russia and its positioning in the security environment in Eastern Europe,” Ivanov said.

He said that possible priorities around which to seek a majority for a new government included entering the euro zone – “if we don’t do it in the next 12 months, it probably won’t happen” – military modernisation, dealing with inflation and fighting for Bulgarian energy and geopolitical independence.

“It will not surprise anyone that without the implementation of judicial reform it will not be possible to move forward on important political topics,” Ivanov said.

Boiko Borissov, the former prime minister who leads GERB, one of the four groups in Parliament that was instrumental in voting Petkov’s government out of office in June, told supporters on July 2: “At the moment, there is monstrous vote-buying going on”.

“If it is assumed that an MP, regardless of which district, is between 7000 and 10 000 votes, every MP they currently buy is like buying 10 000 votes,” said Borissov, who offered no evidence for his allegations.

GERB deputy leader Tomislav Donchev said in a broadcast interview on July 1: “I think that this Parliament is helpless in terms of its task to form some normal working government with a slightly longer horizon. As much as a new election is a test for the country, for society, for the state, at any rate it is the best variant”.

“The resignation of the government may turn out not to be the entrance to the political crisis, it may turn out to be a way out,” Donchev said.

He said that it was not good that the main goal of a government was its own survival, because there was no strength left for anything else.

Movement for Rights and Freedoms leader Mustafa Karadayi, asked on Panorama which was better for Bulgaria, a Vassilev government or elections, replied: “Elections now”.

(Screenshot: BNT. From left: Minchev, Vassilev, Petkov and Gyurov)

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