Bulgaria: GERB-UDF’s Maria Gabriel says she will withdraw candidacy to be Prime Minister

GERB-UDF’s Prime Minister-designate Maria Gabrield told a news conference on the afternoon on March 24 that she would on Monday submit a letter to Parliament withdrawing her candidacy, and GERB-UDF would not nominate a government nor take part in further negotiations.

This, apparently setting Bulgaria on course for early parliamentary elections, came on a weekend that talks between the GERB-UDF and We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria coalitions on a governance agreement and a government had been continuing.

“I appreciate that the talks have continued in recent days,” Gabriel said.

“I would like to thank everyone, and especially my negotiating team, for their patience, for their arguments, for their discussions. I would also like to thank [outgoing Prime Minister] Academician Nikola Denkov, with whom we did not cross boundaries beyond which conversation between us would be impossible, Gabriel said.

According to Gabriel, who at the news conference was accompanied by other members of the GERB-UDF negotiating team, GERB-UDF had offered concessions but had said no to new conditions.

She said that at the point that GERB-UDF had offered to give way on the defence and energy portfolios – which WCC-DB has been insisting on retaining “another ministry was also requested – the Interior Ministry”.

Gabriel said that GERB-UDF would not participate in negotiations on a government to be nominated on the basis of the second mandate to seek to form a government. That mandate would be offered to WCC-DB, as Parliament’s second-largest group.

Nor would GERB-UDF participate in negotiations on a government when the third and final mandate is handed out, according to Gabriel. Bulgaria’s constitution confers on the president a free choice to which parliamentary group to offer the third mandate.

“I want to express regret for the situation that has arisen,” Gabriel said.

“We made concessions, we had common ground, but unfortunately we will have to return to it after the elections. I will continue to be Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to do my job until the last day of this government,” she said.

Gabriel said that negotiations had continued in spite of the fact that she had not received an apology from Assen Vassilev. This week, Vassilev, co-leader of WCC, referred at a news conference to Gabriel as “perhaps the newest and most beautiful face of the mafia”.

She said that she did not expect a personal apology, but an apology to all those women who are also mothers and who “have dared to sit in high positions and do it with the highest possible dose of professionalism”.

The announcement by Gabriel follows severe tensions between GERB-UDF and WCC-DB, which in June 2023 co-operated to vote the Denkov government into office, on the understanding that after nine months, there would be a “rotation” that would see Gabriel becoming PM and Denkov Deputy PM.

On March 19, Gabriel presented a proposed government to President Roumen Radev, who forwarded it to Parliament for a vote.

However, WCC-DB said that the line-up of the proposed government had not been agreed with it, and this was followed by exchanges between the two coalitions of insults and demands for apologies.

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