Centrist parties put aside their differences to agree on a rotating premiership
Bulgaria’s two main political factions have agreed to a power-sharing deal in an effort to end a parliamentary stalemate that has paralysed the EU nation for more than two years.
The country, which has suffered persistent inflation, difficulties in decoupling its energy network from Russia and setbacks in fighting corruption and organised crime, has had five elections since 2021.
All the elections since the collapse of former prime minister Boyko Borisov’s centre-right government have ended inconclusively or resulted in shortlived governments as his Gerb party continued to command over a quarter of the vote but was unable to put together a stable coalition.
On Monday night Gerb and a centrist alliance led by its main political rivals, We Continue the Change and Democratic Bulgaria (PP-DB), agreed to form a government together, with a rotating premiership.
Gerb, which won the last elections on April 2, has proposed former EU commissioner Mariya Gabriel as its candidate for prime minister in place of Borisov, whose rule ended amid graft allegations that sparked huge protests.
Under the power-sharing agreement, the PP-DB’s Nikolai Denkov, a former education minister, will become prime minister, with Gabriel serving as his deputy and foreign minister. Gabriel will take over the premiership after nine months as the parties rotate the leadership.
The deal must still be approved by their parties’ MPs.
After the agreement was struck, Gabriel told reporters Bulgaria needed a stable government “to get out of the current political crisis” and to “fulfil all requirements related to the country’s full-fledged EU membership, including in Schengen and the eurozone”. Sofia is still in the waiting room to join Europe’s passport-free travel area known as Schengen and its eurozone membership has also been delayed.
Bulgaria’s former justice minister Hristo Ivanov, who leads one of the parties in the PP-DB group, said the coalition agreement would unlock “immense economic and political benefits”.
“Entry into the Schengen zone and the euro area is absolutely doable,” he said. “There are tens of billions in EU funding to be used. We can revamp the energy system, decouple from Russia and reignite the green transition, build geopolitically crucial north-south infrastructure, and revive our robust military industry, helping Ukraine. But only if there is a stable government.”
The PP-DB had promised its voters it would never participate in a government with Gerb. But according to Dimitar Bechev, a lecturer at the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies, the alliance had no good choices: “If PP-DB don’t get into this government, they could see even worse results in a likely next election,” he said.
The coalition is likely to be an uneasy one, however, because both groups are preparing for local elections in October.