The leader of Bulgaria’s conservative GERB party, Boyko Borissov, is widely expected to propose on Wednesday morning (10 May) European Commissioner Maria Gabriel as the country’s next prime minister, in the hope of forming a viable government after four failed elections.
The prime minister-designate will be presented in the National Assembly in Sofia in front of all the leaders of the political parties, Borisov said on Tuesday. His GERB (EPP) emerged as the strongest single party in a snap election on 2 April, capturing 25% of the vote, and now has the difficult task to find allies to form a government.
Borissov did not explicitly name Gabriel but his description seems to match the profile of the EU commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education, and youth.
He said Bulgarians and Europe would be proud with the prime minister he was going to propose.
“Our prime minister will be a person who can lead the economy, industry, and modernisation in the direction we all expect,” Borissov said.
Citing high-ranking sources in GERB, the website “24 hours” reported that Gabriel would be the candidate for prime minister.
EURACTIV asked Gabriel’s office, as well as the cabinet of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, to comment on the speculation. The Commission spokesperson’s office, who answered on their behalf, said only that the Commission had no comment, without confirming or denying the rumour.
If Gabriel leaves her job, she will need the formal permission of the Commission chief.
Borissov said he would offer 20 ministerial posts to other political parties who would back his hand-picked candidate. The offer may appear generous, but four previous snap elections failed to elect a viable government, largely because the main political players did not want a coalition with Borissov.
If efforts to form a government fail again, Bulgarians will go to snap elections again this summer and Borissov wanted to drive home the message that it was time to get serious.
“I appeal to all parties: Elections in August, without a budget, would be a disaster,” he said, stressing that GERB is “definitely determined to form a government, whatever the cost.”
Borissov said the prime minister-designate would “put order in the chaos”, unblock European funds available under the recovery plan, advance the justice reform, and make sure Bulgaria joins the EU’s passport-free Schengen are.
However, Borisov also formulated a number of conditions, the most difficult being that the future cabinet be supported both by GERB and the second-ranking political party, “The Change continues”.
However, this party, led by former reformist prime minister Kiril Petkov, staunchly rejects collaboration with Borissov.
“If it doesn’t happen, we rely on the other parties to share this responsibility,” Borissov added.
Borissov’s most likely ally is the Movement of Rights and Freedoms (DPS), but the two do not have enough hands between them to form a majority. Vazrazhdane, a pro-Russian party, could be tempted to join a government coalition, although its leader has so far publicly rejected such a possibility.
Pundits say Gabriel would make a mistake if she leaves her post as commissioner to join the Bulgarian political scene, where even in the best scenario she could hardly survive long at the helm of a fragile cabinet.
If Gabriel leaves the Commission, von der Leyen could either replace her or give her portfolio to another Commissioner.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]
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