GERB, WCC agree on ‘expert’ groups to seek consensus on policies

While each has pledged not to support the other’s mandate to seek to form a government, the GERB-UDF coalition and the We Continue the Change (WCC) party agreed in talks on November 8 to set up “expert” groups to seek consensus on policies.

In Bulgaria’s October 2 early parliamentary elections, former prime minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB-UDF won the largest share of seats in the National Assembly. In line with the constitution, this entitles it to be the first to receive a mandate to seek to form a government.

Should that attempt prove fruitless, the second mandate would go to WCC, as the National Assembly’s second-largest parliamentary group.

The November 8 talks between GERB-UDF and WCC were announced this past weekend by former president Rossen Plevneliev, one of two mediators appointed by Borissov’s coalition to attempt to bring parliamentary groups together for discussions. These attempts have resulted in no meaningful progress so far.

Ahead of the talks, WCC co-leader Kiril Petkov reiterated that the party would not participate in a coalition with GERB at any stage of the mandate process. WCC was going to the meeting only to raise its 16 policy priorities, he said.

At the meeting, it emerged that the two groups have similar views on social issues, but differ on the question of the Budget.

WCC co-leader Assen Vassilev presented forecast data according to which the Budget deficit next year could fall below three per cent, the goal set by GERB.

“We are not faced with the choice of budgetary discipline or a social package, but rather the choice of what to include in the social package in order to reach a three percent deficit,” Vassilev said.

GERB, however, described these forecasts as unrealistic and unconfirmed by any other institution.

“We are in favour of increasing pensions and the minimum wage, but we need a clear estimate of what we can afford,” GERB parliamentary leader Dessislava Atanassova said, saying that this meant discussions about gas and electricity prices.

On November 6, Borissov told reporters that he was optimistic about the prospects of an elected government being formed.

Borissov said that head of state President Roumen Radev wanted an elected government formed “because otherwise he will have to shoulder the entire burden of the winter crisis”.

The GERB leader called on Radev to convene a consultative council to find out which party would support another so that a majority with 121 votes in the National Assembly could be established.

Borissov, commenting on WCC’s stance that it would not vote in favour of a government proposed with a mandate held by GERB, said that his group would not support a government proposed with a mandate held by WCC.

Meanwhile, Radev is continuing the process of consultations with parliamentary groups, as mandated by the constitution ahead of offering the first mandate to seek to form a government.

Radev has been holding these consultations in somewhat protracted fashion, in what is widely seen as a move to give parliamentary groups time to reach agreement on a government – or if they do not, to stretch the process so that early elections are not held before late winter.

Radev met GERB for consultations on October 26, WCC on October 31 and the National Assembly’s third-largest group, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, on November 2.

He is to meet the fourth-largest group, pro-Russian Vuzrazhdane – which opposes the formation of an elected government in this Parliament and wants early elections held once more – on the afternoon of November 9.

There has been no announcement from the Presidency about when Radev will hold consultations with the remaining three parliamentary groups – the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Democratic Bulgaria, and Bulgaria Ascending.

Speaking on November 8, Radev said: “”I hope that the parties fulfill this additional time given the need for a regular government as soon as possible.

“I expect that this will be evaluated, that the dialogue will be restored, and that there will be constructive negotiations between the parties…let’s not get into the hypothesis of elections in January or February,” Radev said.

(Screenshot via the Facebook page of WCC)

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