Bulgaria’s 2022 elections: GERB’s Borissov sets out agenda for Cabinet talks

Former prime minister Boiko Borissov, whose GERB-UDF coalition won the most votes in Bulgaria’s October 2 parliamentary election, said on October 4 that his party will initiate talks with other parliamentary represented parties on several issues with a view of reaching agreements that could serve as the base for forming a government.

Borissov said that rather than host the talks, GERB would invite “contact groups” from other parties, with the meetings set to be moderated by non-partisan representatives.

He pointed out several topics to be discussed by such groups, including on the war in Ukraine and opposition to Russian president Vladimir Putin, inflation and the rising cost of living, and Bulgaria’s accession to the euro zone.

Borissov called on party leaders to “step back” and said he was prepared to not participate in any future cabinet or even take a seat as member of Parliament, but appeared to rule out stepping down as leader of GERB.

He repeatedly said that GERB was willing to back other parties’ programmes, such as second-placed We Continue the Change (WCC) on increased social spending or Democratic Bulgaria’s on judiciary reform.

But in his lengthy news conference, he also repeatedly aimed barbs at WCC, including at one point accusing WCC co-leader and former finance minister Assen Vassilev of wanting to “break the state” and describing the state of goverment finances as “horrible.”

Borissov said that GERB was open to talks with all parties, but was more focused on framing any possible government agreement as being between “Euro-Atlantic parties”, a loose term used in the last week of the campaign to refer to pro-Western parties, as opposed to pro-Russian Vuzrazhdane, which wants Bulgaria to leave both the EU and Nato.

He appeared to identify WCC, Democratic Bulgaria and the Bulgarian Socialist Party as the preferred partners in the future talks, despite leaders of all three pre-emptively rejecting the prospect in comments made since election day.

Despite saying earlier that he was open to talks with all parties, Borissov said that a coalition with predominantly ethic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), Vuzrazhdane and former caretaker prime minister Stefan Yanev’s Bulgarian Revival party was not feasible.

MRF leader Mustafa Karadayi and Yanev both indicated in election night comments that they were open to talks with everyone in order to form a Cabinet.

Borissov, who spent more than 10 years as prime minister since winning the 2009 elections, has seen GERB isolated in all three short-lived parliaments elected in 2021.

Despite receiving mandates to form a government after elections in April and July 2021, as well as this summer after the WCC-led cabinet was ousted in a vote of no confidence – by GERB-UDF, MRF, Vuzrazhdane and cable presenter Slavi Trifonov’s ITN party, which failed to enter parliament this time around – Borissov’s party found no willing partners for coalition talks.

Borissov warned that should other parties rebuff his invitation, GERB-UDF would respond in kind, paving the way for fresh elections that would yield the same electoral results.

(Boiko Borissov speaks to the media on October 4. Screengrab from GERB livestream on Facebook)

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