Bulgaria: President Radev moves to limit opportunity for pro-Western government

Amid controversy over a recording that threatens to scupper attempts in Bulgaria to form a governing agreement based on Euro-Atlantic goals, President Roumen Radev’s office has disclosed when he intends to offer the second mandate to seek to form a government, thus limiting the time for an imperilled agreement on an Euro-Atlantic deal on a proposed government to go ahead.

The announcement by Radev’s office that the mandate would be offered on May 29 at 5pm came at the close of a week in which a deal was announced between the We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria coalition and the GERB-UDF coalition on a proposed government, espousing Euro-Atlantic values.

With efforts towards the WCC-DB + GERB-UDF deal in disarray because the release of the controversial recording, the move by Radev limits the time to save the situation. Once the mandate is handed over, the mandate-holders have just seven days to hand over a proposal for a viable government.

Several weeks after Bulgaria’s April 2 parliamentary elections, Radev offered the first mandate to seek to form a government to GERB-UDF, as the largest parliamentary group, in line with the prerequisites of the constitution. GERB-UDF renounced that mandate, in the light of the deal with WCC-DB, the second-largest group. Combined, WCC-DB and GERB-UDF have more than sufficient votes for a government to be elected – a government that pro-Kremlin forces would not like and one that would espouse goals based on Euro-Atlantic values anathema to Putin’s regime.

The prospects for that deal were confounded by the public disclosure of an illicit recording of a WCC national council meeting about the deal, which if approved, would open the way for an administration that could, among other things, counter the policy orientation of the caretaker administration appointed by Radev that opposes Nato and EU member Bulgaria offering meaningful aid to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia’s illegal war on that country.

After the Bulgarian Parliament’s largest group, GERB-UDF, had formally given up its bid to form a government in the light of its deal with WCC-DB on a government, Radev’s office had remained silent for a noticeable length of time about when it would announce the handing of the second mandate, to WCC-DB. It was during that time of silence that noisily, the recording emerged that imperilled the WCC-DB + GERB-UDF deal.

Clarity on the mandate for WCC-DB came only on Sunday evening when it seemed that that WCC-DB +GERB-UDF deal was at risk of failure. Failure would mean a third and probably futile third attempt at a government, failing which Bulgaria would head for yet another round elections, pending which power would effectively remain in the hands of Radev and his caretaker government’s policies that have caused profound misgivings among Western democracies.

In short, at the close of a weekend of high political drama, in which the release of the recording of the WCC talks led to GERB-UDF suspending talks with WCC-DB on the envisaged government, putting into question whether a Euro-Atlantic deal could go ahead, Radev’s office announced the date and time for the handing of the second mandate, leaving very little time for WCC-DB and GERB-UDF to put their deal back on track.

Scuppering of that deal would leave the road open only for alternatives less palatable for Western capitals, but perhaps more palatable for the Kremlin and the advantage the embattled Putin regime would gain from a Nato and EU country defaulting on the defence of democracy against that regime.

Radev is known for backing calls for a “diplomatic solution” that would mean “peace” in the Putin regime’s assault on Ukraine, calls that critics interpret as nothing more than capitulation to that regime, already accused of war crimes and a violation of internationally-recognised borders determining the sovereignty of Ukraine.

The caretaker government appointed by Radev is known for vocally opposing any meaningful assistance in the form of weapons to enable Ukraine to defend itself against the Putin regime.

WCC co-leader Assen Vassilev, speaking to public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television on May 28, said: “There is nothing scandalous about the recording (of the national council meeting), I have made it very clear that I stand by every single word in it”.

Referring to references in the recording about reforms of Bulgaria’s security and intelligence services being discussed with unnamed embassies, Vassilev said: “By law, the Bulgarian services work with the partner services in the EU and Nato. It is normal for their leaders to have access to information and to be coordinated with after they are selected”.

According to Vassilev, the recording caused emotions, but should not affect the processes of forming a government that much.

“Bulgaria must have a stable government that will establish us as a true member of the EU with entry into Schengen and the euro zone and a true member of Nato”

Vassilev said that WCC-DB candidate Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov had “full powers” to conduct the negotiations on a government and “as far as I understand the President will hand over the second mandate tomorrow, so in a week we’ll all know how they ended”.

Vassilev said that he was not inclined to give in to GERB-UDF’s demand to let that coalition’s Maria Gabriel be the one to receive the mandate on its behalf and go on to become Prime Minister.

The WCC-DB + GERB-UDF deal announced on May 22 had envisaged the post of Prime Minister rotating between WCC-DB’s Denkov and GERB-UDF’s Gabriel, in a timeframe lasting at least 18 months, with Denkov taking the first nine months and Gabriel taking the second.

In a television interview on May 28, Denkov expressed hope that within a day or two they would resume the working dialogue with GERB.

“We told each other that emotions should calm down a bit and then we thaw them – just in the way that they are frozen, they can be thawed. Let me say that we heard from each other today. We had a nice conversation today as well. I hope tomorrow or other day to enter into a working dialogue. Both Mr. Vassilev and I have been ministers. None of us has allowed ourselves to do anything that is outside the scope of the law and what is provided for in the laws”.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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