Bulgaria edges towards early elections

Bulgaria edges towards early elections
By Dimitar Koychev in Sofia December 1, 2016

The parliamentary group of the ruling centre-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) has made a final decision to not support a new government within the current parliament, GERB deputy chairman Tsvetan Tsvetanov said on November 30. This means that most likely there will be early elections in the spring of 2017.

On November 14, GERB leader and Prime Minister Boyko Borissov submitted the resignation of the government to the parliament. The move came after the second round of the presidential election was won by former air force commander General Rumen Radev, who was supported by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). The parliament accepted the cabinet's resignation on November 16.

On December 2, outgoing President Rosen Plevneliev will give GERB an exploratory mandate for forming a new government. Borissov said that GERB will return it. After that Plevneliev is expected to give a mandate to the BSP, which has also said it would return it.

The president has the right to one more move, selecting a third party represented in the parliament, before early elections have to be called. Most likely this will be the nationalist Patriotic Front that usually supported the outgoing government, or GERB's junior ruling partner Reformist Bloc. Both have indicated that they would accept the mandate.

On November 29, Borissov hinted that GERB may support a government formed with the mandate of one of these two parties. GERB, the Reformist Bloc and the Patriotic Front have 84, 22 and 17 MPs respectively in the 240-seat assembly.

However, a day later GERB’s parliamentary group made the opposite decision. The change in stance was triggered by differences that surfaced during the debates of the 2017 budget in the parliament, including the demand of the Patriotic Front for nearly doubling the minimum pension to BGN300 (€153). The parliament did not accept the front’s proposal eventually.