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Opposing leaders agree on Bulgaria’s Cabinet

Opposing leaders agree on Bulgaria's Cabinet

Bulgaria’s long political stalemate appeared to reach a possible conclusion on Monday, when two opposing blocs – GERB/United Democratic Forces on one side and the reformist duo “We Continue the Change”, WCC, and Democratic Bulgaria on the other – announced that they had agreed to present an 18-month “expert” cabinet headed by rotating prime ministers. 

For the first nine months, Bulgaria will be led by former Education Minister Nickolay Denkov of “We Continue the Change”, while the next nine months will be under the governance of former EU commissioner Mariya Gabriel, now the fresh face of GERB. 

Both major parties made the important symbolic move of not nominating their de facto leaders – Boyko Borissov for GERB, and Kiril Petkov for WCC, as potential prime ministers. 

On Monday, after GERB returned its mandate to form a government unfulfilled, the next mandate was to be handed to WCC and Democratic Bulgaria.

However, a Denkov-Gabriel cabinet will have an easy majority of 135 MPs in Bulgaria’s 240-seat parliament. 

The move comes as a surprise, as WCC and Democratic Bulgaria had kept close to their promise not to enter into any deals with GERB.

On May 17, ex-PM Borissov stated that since the two opposition parties would not support his mandate, he would not support them either, when the mandate went to them.

Exactly the opposite happened on Monday.

“Our alliance takes responsibility at a time when the European future of the country is threatened by timeless interim cabinets,” Democratic Bulgaria said, referencing the increased powers of President Rumen Radev, who has been selecting cabinets after each of a series of inconclusive elections. 

“We Continue the Change/Democratic Bulgaria will propose a government that can implement constitutional reform with broad parliamentary and public support, fulfil all requirements related to the country’s full and active membership in the European Union, including entering the Schengen zone and the euro-zone; to implement a comprehensive judicial reform,” it added.

It is unclear what the warming-up between GERB / United Democratic Forces and We Continue the Change / Democratic Bulgaria will mean for the mayoral elections due in the autumn, when the two blocs will field opposing candidates while working together in the state government. 

But it does mean that Bulgaria will finally exit the logjam in which five general elections and one presidential election were held in the space of only two years.

The cycle saw the decline of GERB, the rise and fall of “There’s Such a People”, founded by popular TV personality Slavi Trifonov, and the reformist government of Kiril Petkov, which was ousted in 2022 after “There’s Such a People” left the coalition and moved to the opposition. 

Benefitting from these fragmented new forces, GERB came first in the last two elections, in October 2022 and in April this year.

By bringing the opposition closer into its orbit, GERB has escaped political isolation while WCC and Democratic Bulgaria will make a comeback in government. 

However, the situation also contains echoes from 2013, when the then-touted champions of change, the Reformist Bloc, emerged from anti-government protests only to make a pact with GERB, and then lose voters’ support.

Also on Monday, Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev, once one of Borissov’s closest allies but now an opponent, after GERB agreed to opposition calls for his ousting, gave a nearly two-hour press conference where he announced that the prosecution will probe both Borissov and Mariya Gabriel for corruption. 

Source: Balkan Insight