Status: 07/28/2022 2:56 p.m.
After three failed attempts to form a government, Bulgaria is expected to hold new elections in October. Analysts fear the political crisis will strengthen nationalist and pro-Russian groups.
After several failed attempts to form a government, new elections will most likely be held in Bulgaria in the fall – for the fourth time since April last year. After the fall of the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, the Socialists (BSP), who previously co-governed, gave up their third and final term to form a government.
The leader of the BSP parliamentary group, Georgi Swilenski, had already admitted yesterday that efforts to form a viable coalition had failed. Previously, the two largest parties in parliament – the reformist We Continue Change party and the right-wing conservative GERB party – had failed to form a government.
A transitional government must be installed
President Rumen Radev is expected to soon dissolve the parliament which was only elected in November 2021. He is to set up an interim government and announce a date for parliamentary elections. This is indicated for October. Analysts expect the new elections to result in a stronger presence of nationalist and pro-Russian groups in parliament.
Bulgaria, a member of the EU and NATO, is caught in a political crisis. Pro-European Prime Minister Petkov was ousted in June after just six months by a vote of no confidence in parliament. His ruling coalition had weakened, among other things, due to disagreements over military aid to Ukraine. The four-party government lost its parliamentary majority in June after the departure of the populist ITN from the coalition.
Dispute over relations with Russia
Given the rapid rise in inflation, the opposition also accused the government of failing in its financial and economic policies. The previous coalition also bequeaths “chaos in the energy sector” to the future transitional cabinet, lamented the head of state Radew. In April, Russia halted direct gas deliveries to Bulgaria, citing Sofia’s refusal to pay bills in roubles.
In June, Bulgaria ordered the expulsion of 70 Russian diplomatic staff, fueling tensions between the two historically close nations. After his invasion of Ukraine, Petkov accused Russia of relying on “hybrid warfare” tactics.
Disagreement also because of North Macedonia
There was also a dispute in the Bulgarian parliament over relations with neighboring North Macedonia. Petkov had recently pursued a policy of rapprochement with the Balkan country. This had raised hopes that Bulgaria might end its opposition to Skopje’s EU membership aspirations.
Former head of government Petkov took office with a promise to tackle the corruption that was rampant under his conservative predecessor Boyko Borissov in the EU member state, considered impoverished. He himself blames Borissov for his dismissal, as well as a well-known oligarch and the Russian ambassador in Sofia.