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April 5, 2021

Europe

BULGARIA: Technocratic cabinet or new vote likely after Sunday’s election

BY Andrius Tursa

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The ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) won the 4 April parliamentary election but is unlikely to lead the next government. A fragmented parliament and long-standing political rivalries will likely result in a temporary technocratic/minority government or snap general elections in the summer.

With 80.9% of ballots counted, GERB is firmly in the lead with 25.9% of votes. A political newcomer There is Such People (ITN) outperformed the pre-election projections and ranks second with 18.0%. The center-left Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) comes in third with nearly 15%, its worst electoral performance to date. Another newcomer center-right Democratic Bulgaria (DB) stands fourth with 10%, slightly ahead of the Movement for the Rights and Freedoms (MRF) with 9.6% of votes. A third newcomer coalition Stand Up! Thugs Out! (IS.BG) with 4.9%is also expected to enter parliament. Finally, the right-wing Bulgarian National Movement (VMRO) and a coalition between Will (Volya) and National Front for the Salvation of Bulgaria (NFSB) – both currently supporting the Borisov government – are unlikely to pass the 4% threshold to win mandates. Turnout reached around 47.5% and was the lowest since 1990.

The Central Election Commission will announce final results by Thursday, 8 April. Despite multiple reports of irregularities, the result is unlikely to be contested. Once the new parliament is convened – expectedly in the second half of April – President Rumen Radev will give a mandate to the largest parliamentary group (GERB) to form a government.

As previously noted, GERB is unlikely to remain in office as most elected lists have ruled out cooperation with the incumbents. As a result, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov (GERB) has already proposed a technocratic government to lead the country out of the Covid-19 pandemic by December and oversee the management of the European Union’s post-pandemic recovery funds. However, an expert cabinet proposed by GERB would find it difficult to secure backing from a majority of deputies (121 out of 240) in parliament.

If GERB fails to form a government within seven days after receiving the mandate, the task would be given to ITN – the second-largest group in parliament. The party, led by a popular TV personality Slavi Trifonov, has not commented on its post-election intentions beyond the pledge not to cooperate with the so-called ‘systemic parties’ – GERB, BSP and MRF. Unless Trifonov changes his stance – which would be an unpopular move for his party – ITN cannot form a majority government. While BSP might offer its informal backing to an ITN-led minority cabinet, Trifonov might prefer early elections in such case.

If ITN returns the mandate, a smaller parliamentary group chosen by Radev would have a final attempt at forming a government. At this point, the threat of another general vote during the pandemic might force parties in parliament to mend their stances and look for compromises, such as forming a grand coalition between GERB, BSP and MRF or a temporary technocratic cabinet.

Finally, if all three rounds of government formation are unsuccessful, the constitution requires the president to appoint a caretaker government, dissolve parliament and schedule new elections to be held within two months. Given a highly fragmented parliament and entrenched political rivalries, this appears as the most realistic scenario at this point.

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