Bulgaria: Radev announces dates of consultations ahead of bids to form a government

Ahead of handing over the first of a possible three mandates to seek to form a government, Roumen Radev will hold consultations with the National Assembly’s six parliamentary groups over two days – March 11 and 12, according to a schedule posted on the presidency’s website.

This is a sequel to the resignation of Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov’s government, approved unanimously by the National Assembly on March 6.

On March 11, Radev will host representatives of the three largest parliamentary groups, the ones that had been supporting Denkov’s government – Boiko Borissov’s GERB-UDF at 9.30am, We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria at 11.30am and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms at 2pm.

On March 12, the meetings will continue the pattern of being received by diminishing order of size – Vuzrazhdane at 9.30am, the Bulgarian Socialist Party at 11.30pm and ITN at 2pm.

While Radev is holding the consultations over two days – on previous occasions in recent years – he has stretched out the process over a longer period, it is also true that months have passed without formal negotiations between GERB-UDF and WCC-DB on a post-March 6 government. Instead, the two sides have been making rival statements to the media.

Radev’s consultations with the parliamentary groups will be followed by, as the constitution requires, him handing a mandate to the largest parliamentary group, GERB-UDF, to seek to form a government.

From the time it receives the mandate, GERB-UDF will have seven days to present a proposed government or hand back the mandate unfulfilled.

If matters reach the stage of a second mandate, that will go to the second-largest group, WCC-DB, which similarly will have seven days to fulfil it or hand it back.

At the third stage, the head of state has a free hand to choose a parliamentary group to which to hand the final mandate. Failure at the third stage, which has no seven-day deadline, would trigger early parliamentary elections.

On March 7, Borissov, attending a European People’s Party congress in Bucharest, said that negotiations with WCC-DB would be held on March 8, 9 and 10, while he continued not to rule out early elections.

Maria Gabriel, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in the Denkov government, has been named by Borissov as head of the GERB-UDF negotiating team.

The agreement between WCC-DB and GERB-UDF that put the Denkov government in place in June 2023 envisaged a “rotation” this March that would see Gabriel taking over as Prime Minister, and Denkov becoming Deputy PM.

However, conflict between GERB-UDF and WCC-DB has called into question whether this “rotation” would happen.

Borissov said that Gabriel should not be an “obedient” Prime Minister, which he contrasted with, in his view, Denkov consulting WCC-DB party leaders before making decisions.

“She has chosen a support team in the most important areas – justice, energy, construction – she will manage this cabinet and will say which ministers she can work with,” Borissov said, continuing the contrast with the WCC-DB view – as expressed by WCC co-leader Assen Vassilev – that the “rotation” would see minimal changes to the cabinet line-up.

On March 7, WCC co-leader Kiril Petkov said: “I hold the invitations in my hands, we are inviting Boiko Borissov, Maria Gabriel and their negotiating team officially on Friday, at a time convenient for them, to start the negotiations”.

Petkov said that the basis is reforms in the regulators and in the justice system with one main common goal – to make a Gabriel government a reality.

Denkov, responding to Borissov’s criticisms that the resignation of the Denkov government had been “hasty” said on March 7: “Both sides have submitted documents, the administration has greatly slowed down its work, they have stopped anti-corruption activities”.

The negotiation process must be accelerated, Denkov said: “My appeal is to stop criticising others and sit down tomorrow at the negotiation table”.

(Photo: president.bg)

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