Bulgarian MPs have backed a new coalition government led by former Prime Minister Boiko Borisov’s GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) by 149 votes to 85.
A month after Bulgaria’s parliamentary elections, Borisov on November 6 struck a coalition deal with fellow rightwing group the Reformist Bloc. The government also has the backing of the left-wing Alternative for Bulgarian Revival (ABV), which will get one ministerial post, and the nationalist Patriotic Front (PF).
Together, GERB and the Reformists have 107 of the 240 seats in the parliament, and the ABV adds 11, meaning support from the PF's 19 MPs are needed to get a parliamentary majority.
The new cabinet will comprise of 18 ministers, 10 from GERB, 7 from the Reformists and one from ABV.
In addition to Borisov’s return as prime minister, GERB has two deputy prime ministers in the new government - Tomislav Donchev will become Deputy Prime Minister for absorption of EU funds and economic policy, and Rumyana Bachvarova as Deputy Prime Minister responsible for coalition policy and state administration.
Meanwhile, the Reformists’ Meglena Kuneva will become Deputy Prime Minister in charge of EU policies and institutional matters, and the party will also get the defence and education portfolios. Other key appointments include Daniel Mitov, foreign minister in the current caretaker government, who will retain his position.
Addressing the parliament before the vote, Borisov told MPs that he would lead a “pro-European, reformist government".
Borisov’s speech highlighted the country’s economic problems and lack of reform. "Our government is a reformist one because a number of sectors are outdated and taxpayers' money have been unduly spent," he said, according to website Novinite.
On November 4, the European Commission cut its 2014 growth forecast for Bulgaria from 1.7% to 1.2%. So far in 2014, investment has been driven mainly by public expenditures, which is expected to significantly decrease in the coming years, the EC said. Meanwhile, private investment is seen contracting in 2014-2015.
The new government faces numerous challenges, not least reviving the economy and restoring investor confidence. “This coalition will be centre-right/reform, which is important given the significant challenges facing Bulgaria in terms of addressing problems in the banks, recent weakness in public finances, weak growth and deeper seated structural problems,” Tim Ash of Standard Bank wrote in an analyst note on November 4 when the shape of the new government started to emerge.
Borisov’s previous four-year term as prime minister came to an end in February 2013 following mass protests over high energy costs, corruption and low living standards in Bulgaria. However, the subsequent government, a shaky coalition comprising the the former communist BSP and the mainly ethnic Turkish MRF, survived for barely a year and was dragged down by a series of corruption scandals.
As a result, the October 5 elections were Bulgaria’s second snap elections in under two years, raising hopes a fresh poll would pave the way for a more stable new government. However, with many voters turning to small and fringe parties to demonstrate their disillusionment with mainstream politicians, the elections produced a fragmented parliament divided among eight parties, with none holding a majority. The formation of a new coalition under Borisov has, however, allayed fears that yet another round of snap polls might be called if MPs failed to reach a coalition deal.
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