Rivals join forces to form new Bulgarian government

Rivals join forces to form new Bulgarian government
Bulgaria's next prime ministers: Nikolai Denkov (right) will hold the position first, followed by Mariya Gabriel (left).
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia May 22, 2023

The two largest formations in Bulgaria’s parliament, Gerb-SDS and Change Continues-Democratic Bulgaria (CC-DB), have reached a deal on a joint government with a rotating prime minister, the two candidates for the post – Gerb’s Mariya Gabriel and CC-DB’s Nikolai Denkov – said at a joint press conference on May 22.

The unusual formula, which will put an end to the deepest political crisis in the country for decades, was agreed between the two rivals, after CC-DB previously refused to participate in coalition with Gerb, while the latter said it would not back a CC-DB government.

“This government will work for at least eighteen months with the support of the first political formation in parliament,” Denkov said.

He added that if any part of the agreement with Gerb was not respected, he would resign.

Denkov will be prime minister for nine months, while Gabriel will be his deputy and also foreign minister for that time. In the second half, Gabriel would take over the prime minister post, while Denkov will become her deputy.

The agreement was announced less than an hour before Gabriel’s appointment with President Rumen Radev where she returned the first mandate to form a government unfulfilled. Radev said that he will hand the second mandate to CC-DB within a few days.

The two formations have majority of 133 out of 240 MPs in parliament.

Tasks ahead agreed

Denkov said that CC-DB will propose a government able to carry out a constitutional reform and a reform of the judiciary. The government will also have the task of fulfilling all requirements for entry to the eurozone and the Schengen border-free area, as well as to file a budget for 2023 with a 3%-of-GDP deficit.

Among the six priorities of the future government are also a return to machine voting, as well as drafting a mechanism to elect members of state regulators where the mandate of the current members has expired.

The government should also adopt legislation that would free the country’s security services from foreign influence.

Gerb and CC-DB will use the already agreed legislation programme. They have also agreed that any changes to the government will be made only with the agreement of the two formations.

The unusual formula for a regular government was accepted with mixed reactions by the supporters of the two formations. However, if successful, it could bring both Gerb and CC-DB more votes in the next election. Moreover, the reforms envisaged have the potential to wipe clean the current corrupt image of Gerb and its leader, Boyko Borissov.

Chief prosecutor tightens noose around Borissov’s neck

While the two formations held talks on the formula for a future joint government, chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev wrote a fresh chapter in the ongoing scandal between himself and Gerb. At a press conference on May 22, Geshev played a recording of a conversation between him and Yordan Stoev, member of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), made on May 15.

During the conversation, which Geshev claims was wiretapped by an anonymous person and given to him at Sofia airport, he is negotiating a “dignified exit” and guarantees he will not be chased if he resigns.

Three days earlier, on May 12, six members of the SJC including Stoev filed a request for Geshev’s dismissal for abuse of office and harming the prestige of the judiciary. 

The previous day, Gerb and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS)  had agreed that Geshev should be removed.

Stoev visited Geshev in the role of mediator. During the taped conversation Geshev can be heard asking him: “And the main driver is? Boyko?” – referring to Borissov.

“Yes, the Bankya,” Stoev replies, referring to the Sofia district of Bankya where Borissov lives.

Stoev also admits he was selected as an emissary.

“Gerb commands the SJC,” Stoev says.

He also admits that “Boyko” (believed to be Borissov) ordered the six members of the SJC to file the request for Geshev’s dismissal.

Before playing the recording at the press conference, Geshev also showed journalists a text chat between himself and Borissov. Geshev sent Borissov a message saying “okay” and received in response a smiley face emoticon. The chief prosecutor claims the messages were exchanged after his conversation with Stoev.

“God is punishing me with stupid enemies,” Geshev said.

Borissov commented on Geshev’s statements, saying he has been receiving between 4,000 and 6,000 messages a day during the holidays and that he always replies with a smiley emoticon.

He did not comment any other parts of Geshev’s claims.

On May 22, the prosecution said in a statement that it is launching investigations into both Borissov and Gabriel. It is also probing two members of the SJC that requested Geshev’s dismissal.