Bulgaria’s ruling GERB rules out early elections as ABV quits government

Bulgaria’s ruling GERB rules out early elections as ABV quits government
ABV's Ivaylo Kalfin was first to quit ministerial post
By Dimitar Koychev in Sofia May 11, 2016

The ruling centre-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) said on May 11 that it does not intend to call an early general election despite the departure of the left-wing Alternative for Bulgarian Revival (ABV) from the ruling coalition.

The ruling coalition has the firm support of 114 lawmakers, seven votes short of a simple majority. However, the Bulgarian parliament is very fragmented, with eight parliamentary groups and 12 independent MPs. Given the distribution of the forces in the parliament, GERB may be able to secure the needed majority so that its government remains in power.

The presidential elections in the autumn are the only elections this year for which GERB is preparing, according to a declaration read in the parliament by the party’s deputy chairman Tsvetan Tsvetanov.

GERB has 83 MPs in the 240-seat parliament. Its junior coalition partner the Reformist Bloc has 23, but 10 of them have declared they are moving to the opposition. ABV has 11 lawmakers. The nationalist Patriotic Front, which is not a member of the ruling coalition, but usually supports it, has 18 MPs.

AVB announced its withdrawal from the coalition on May 10, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Policy Ivaylo Kalfin tendered his resignation. On April 11, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov also dismissed fellow ABV appointees, Deputy Youth and Sports Nina Naydenova and Deputy Regional Development Ivan Asparuhov, and several deputy regional governors, according to a government statement.

On May 10, Krassimira Kovachka, chairperson of the Bulgarian Democratic Centre (14 lawmakers), was quoted by 24 chasa daily as saying the party will continue to support the government on all issues concerning the national interest. Kovachka said the party will not demand any appointments in the government or in the parliament in exchange.

Meanwhile, Tsvetanov said that GERB considers only two parties in the parliament as its opposition – the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP, 38 MPs) and the predominantly ethnic-Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS, 30 MPs). The BSP (from which ABV split in 2014) and DPS both are in favour of calling early parliamentary elections.

The eighth parliamentary group is the nationalist Ataka party with 11 lawmakers.

In February, the government survived a no-confidence vote by a substantial margin. Just 80 lawmakers voted in favour of the motion, including all 38 MPs from the BSP, all 30 from the DPS, nine (out of 11) from Ataka, as well as three independent MPs. There were 130 votes against the motion and five abstentions.

Since July 2009, Bulgaria has had five governments. The first GERB government (July 2009 – March 2013) was followed by a caretaker government appointed by President Rosen Plevneliev (March 2013 – May 2013). The next government, supported by BSP and DPS and elected with the backing of Ataka, was in office from May 2013 to August 2014. Another caretaker government, again appointed by Plevneliev, held office from August 2014 to November 2014. The second GERB government, this time in a coalition with the Reformist Bloc and ABV, has been in office since November 2014. Both GERB governments have been headed by the party’s leader and founder Borissov.