Bulgaria looks set to have its fifth election in under two years, as the final mandate to form a government, given to the Bulgarian Socialist Party by President Radev, will most likely fail.
As the appointment occurred this week, many believed the mandate was doomed, as the two largest parties GERB (Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria) and PP (We Continue the Change) refused to enter government with each other.
Bulgaria’s political turbulence began in April 2021, when it experienced a break from the decade-long domination of Boyko Borissov’s GERB party, following mass anti-corruption demonstrations which forced the government into an early election. Four parliaments and over ten failed mandates later, it appears that there’s no new political force which is able to take its place. Parties have risen from obscurity to lead the polls, only to fall again.
As per the Bulgarian Constitution, the president must grant the first mandate to nominate a prime minister and form a government to the largest party in parliament. In the event that this proposed government fails to get parliamentary approval, or the party refuses the mandate, the president then grants the mandate to the second-largest party. If the second party fails, the president then has discretion to pick a party of choice to form a government. Failing this, a caretaker government is appointed and new elections are called.
Following last year’s October election, GERB, the current largest party, attempted to overcome divisions by nominating the politically neutral Professor Nikolay Gabrovski for prime-minister, but failed to gain support. The mandate was then passed to the PP (We Continue the Change) party, who followed a similar tack of nominating Professor Nikolay Denkov, the former minister of education. They too failed to gain the needed support, as the principles which Denkov laid out as the basis for the new government were rejected by the deputies.
While President Radev has likely chosen the socialists because they are the bigger party, it is probable he was also influenced by comments from one PP member, Venko Sabrutev. The choice surprised many as it was expected the final mandate was to be given to the smaller liberal party DB (Democratic Bulgaria). Speaking to NOVA TV, Sabrutev said that he distrusted a government formed by DB, for the simple fact that it was Borissov who proposed it, stating that “when Borissov smells power, he immediately starts handing out posts.”
So far, the only party to demonstrate interest in a coalition with the socialists is the small nationalist Bulgaria Rise party. However, the party’s pro-Russia stance and reputation will likely preclude other parties from joining the coalition. Many are already looking towards the next election, but in a country where the war in Ukraine is only one dividing issue, alongside the questions of North Macedonia and corruption, it is doubtful if even this will bring an end to Bulgaria’s spiraling political gridlock and instability.