Bulgaria: Negotiators on possible new government seek more time

The GERB-UDF and We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria coalitions are seeking more time for negotiations before President Roumen Radev hands over the first mandate to seek to form a government, it emerged on March 11 as Radev began two days of consultations with the six groups in Bulgaria’s National Assembly.

The consultations, mandated by the constitution, precede the process of offering mandates to seek to form a government.

The GERB-UDF and WCC-DB negotiating teams met on March 9 and 10, following the resignation of the Nikolai Denkov government, a resignation agreed on nine months earlier as key to a deal that was intended to see GERB-UDF’s Maria Gabriel take over as Prime Minister in a process of “rotation”.

There were no formal statements after the weekend’s negotiations, but on March 11, participants described the talks as constructive.

Radev, meeting a GERB-UDF delegation headed by Gabriel, said that the public exchanges between the parties in the “assemblage” seemed to have revived the spectre of early parliamentary elections, in spite of the fact that the change of the Cabinet had been pre-planned nine months earlier, in spite of the presence of strong cohesive factors in the “assemblage” and in spite of the impressive parliamentary support for the government, which often exceeded two-thirds of MPs.

Gabriel, who was restrained in her remarks in the part of the meeting in which the media was present, said: “Regardless of the fact that remarks were made in the public space, for me it is very important to have a dialogue, to say both the good and the critical things”.

She said that Bulgaria needs stability and peace, but this must “be on a principled basis, based on fundamental principles and values”.

Gabriel said that when agreement is reached on a common direction, it must be based on principles and shared responsibility.

Speaking after the meeting with Radev, Gabriel again said the negotiators had both common ground and differences as they hope to produce a common document for the next government to work on. She described the talks as constructive.

“We need a little more time for negotiations. I am grateful for the constructive tone in which they took place over the past two days. Of course we also have differences and that is exactly what we need negotiations for – overcoming the differences and the chances we give ourselves to overcome these differences, to be on a very stable basis. To have a very clear decision-making mechanism,” Gabriel told reporters.

Meeting the WCC-DB delegation, headed by Denkov, Radev said: “Nine months ago you managed to form a government with your mandate, but we see that complicated relations with your partners remain, including during the current negotiations, and the question is whether they lead to the emergence of a new government”.

Denkov said that there was “substantial progress” in the negotiations between GERB and WCC-DB.

“Yes, the relationship is complicated, no one thought it would be easy… We started the negotiations in the past two days, there is significant progress, but until everything is agreed, nothing is agreed. There was an understanding from the other side that they they should have started with a discussion about the reforms that haven’t happened yet,” Denkov said.

“But whether we need more time – it depends only on your powers, it is not our job to try to interfere in this procedure, but it is good that Bulgaria has a stable government that will continue the reforms, because this will benefit the people”.

Speaking after the meeting with Radev, Denkov said that he was moderately optimistic about the negotiations with GERB-UDF.

“There is still work on the negotiations. In addition to the agreement we worked on yesterday and the other day, we need to specify the legislative programme. Separately, there is the governance programme that needs to be updated and the composition of the Cabinet. Until all the work is completed, we do not have document to agree on,” Denkov said.

“The talks were constructive and should continue with the same intensity. Negotiations must be concluded as quickly as possible and a solution found. We have assured the President that we want the rotation to take place. We also told him that if there is no agreement, we may go for elections, but that is not a good option for the state.”

“If we do not find an agreement within the first mandate, it means that we are going to elections,” Denkov said.

Radev’s third meeting of the day was with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.

MRF co-leader Delyan Peevski did not attend the talks, and the delegation was headed by the party’s other co-leader, Dzhevdet Chakurov.

“The state must have stability and predictability. Our position has not changed in order to find a formula for governing the country at the present time,” Chakurov said.

Radev, who said this past weekend that one of the matters that he would raise in the consultations was when to hand over the third mandate, is to hold meetings on March 12 with the three groups that have opposed the Denkov government – Vuzrazhdane, the Bulgarian Socialist Party and ITN.

(Photo of Radev’s meeting with the GERB-UDF delegation: president.bg)

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