Former EU commissioner Mariya Gabriel is close to forming a new Bulgarian government as part of a complex political agreement with her centre-right GERB party’s arch-foes – the reformist ‘We continue the change’ party of former prime minister Kiril Petkov.
Under an unexpected agreement reached on Monday (22 May), however, the two parties would rotate prime ministers for a period of nine months each, and Gabriel would start as deputy prime minister.
Gabriel left her job as Bulgaria’s EU Commissioner at the request of her political patron, former prime minister and GERB leader Boyko Borissov, who nominated her as the candidate for prime minister on 10 May.
EU Commissioner Gabriel nominated as Bulgaria's new prime minister
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 surprise deal emerged just before Gabriel was due to meet with the country’s president and hand over an empty folder, meaning she had been unable to secure a majority and form a government.
Sunday night had yielded another surprise for Gabriel after Slavi Trifonov, the leader of “There is such a people”, withdrew his support for her.
But even with the support of Trifonov’s party, Gabriel was still five MPs short of obtaining a majority in parliament. With only one party left to support her – the mostly ethnic Turkish Movement of Rights and Freedoms (DPS) – analysts predicted that the country was heading toward yet another snap election, for the fifth time in two years.
During this lengthy crisis, Bulgaria’s political life has been marked by a cordon sanitaire around GERB and Borissov, with whom no other political party wanted to enter in a coalition. Borissov is accused of having created a clientelist system of government.
Under Bulgaria’s electoral law, when the party that has won the most votes fails to form a government, the president gives the mandate to the second largest party.
According to the agreement between GERB and ‘We continue the change’, during the first nine months, the latter party’s Nikolay Denkov would be prime minister, with Gabriel as deputy prime minister and foreign minister. They would then switch roles after nine months.
“Mariya Gabriel […] is the person who can help with some of the most important priorities in our program. I do not know of a better representative of ours in the European institutions”, said Denkov, a member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.
Chemistry professor becomes newest Bulgarian PM candidate
Former Education Minister and chemistry professor Nikolay Denkov will be promoted as a candidate for prime minister, Bulgaria’s second largest political party, We Continue the Change, announced on Thursday.
On Wednesday, former prime minister Boyko Borisov’s GERB party failed to form …
GERB has 69 MPs and ‘We continue the change’ 64, although they could obtain a solid majority with the support of the DPS’ 36 deputies.
Denkov said the government would be committed to constitutional and judicial reform; a budget deficit within the 3% threshold set by the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact allowing Sofia to push for eurozone accession; a change to the electoral code, and legislative changes to purge the security services of foreign influence.
According to opinion polls, supporters of ‘We continue the change’ overwhelmingly reject a coalition with GERB. EURACTIV sources say that a number of politicians in GERB are equally critical of a coalition with Petkov’s party.
Pundits say that if the proposed government takes office, this would be a major victory for Borissov, who will have escaped from political ostracism and returned to power, albeit not as prime minister.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Benjamin Fox]
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