Bulgaria heading for technocratic government or sixth snap election

Bulgaria heading for technocratic government or sixth snap election
Former prime minister Boyko Borissov's Gerb party is the largest in the new parliament.
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia April 4, 2023

Bulgarian politicians have few viable options after the April 2 snap general election that produced yet another highly fragmented parliament with the most likely ones being to form a technocratic government with a limited term and specific agenda, or a sixth early vote.

On April 2, Boyko Borissov’s Gerb was first placed with 26.5% of the vote, followed by the Change Continues-Democratic Bulgaria (CC-DB) coalition with 25.55. 

If Gerb and CC-DB join forces, they would have 133 MPs that would secure them a comfortable majority. But although the two formations have the same goals – the country’s further integration in the EU with accession in the Schengen border-free area and the eurozone, as well as moving forward the budget for 2023 and reforms that would unlock EU funds under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) – they seem reluctant to unite in a coalition.

CC-DB has repeatedly said that Gerb would be a possible partner only after it gets rid of its leader and key members whose names have been involved in large-scale corruption scandals.

Gerb, on the other hand, accuses CC-DB of being responsible for the current economic crisis, despite economies across Europe being affected by the Russian war in Ukraine.

The two parties face pressure to do a deal. Teneo analysts believe parties in the new parliament are likely to reach an agreement on a technocratic government as a sixth general election would anger voters.

“[A] temporary technocratic cabinet or another snap vote remain the most likely outcomes of the vote. However, this time the odds are tilted slightly more in favour of a technocratic cabinet with a clear set of objectives and support of the largest parties in parliament,” Teneo noted.

However, Change Continues said on April 4 it would not back or participate in a government led by or supported by Gerb. Despite that, the CC-DB coalition will come up with a joint position later this week.

Gerb leader Boyko Borissov remains silent for now and has said that he will speak after the official results are published at the end of the week.

Teneo noted that theoretically Gerb could cooperate with the ethnic-Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) and the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) as the three parties were close to a coalition deal in previous parliament and now they will have 128 out of 240 MPs. However, such a coalition would harm all participants, particularly Gerb and the BSP.

“[S]uch a coalition would likely be short-lived and might hurt Gerb’s popularity ahead of local elections in autumn. Also, Gerb and BSP would have to bridge their disagreements on various issues, including weapons supplies to Ukraine,” Teneo noted.

If Gerb fails to form a government, CC-DB would get the second mandate but its most realistic option is to form a minority government. However, that option would create a ruling coalition dependent on other political parties, mainly Gerb.

Meanwhile, the lack of a regular government allows Kremlin-friendly president Rumen Radev to have bigger influence on the country’s domestic and foreign policy.

Radev has already indicated that he will not give political parties much time for negotiations before giving the first of three mandates to form a government. That was seen as a sign that the president wants to continue ruling through caretaker governments.

The president will most likely call the parliament’s first session for April 19.