Bulgaria Prepares for Election Call
by Andrew MacDowall
Bulgaria took a step into the political unknown on Thursday as parliament confirmed the resignation of the government. A caretaker administration will probably be formed following constitutional niceties, and hotly-contested early elections are expected within three months.
On Thursday, parliamentarians from the ruling GERB party voted to accept their own government's offer to quit, announced on television the previous day by Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
Borisov's surprise announcement came after anti-government demonstrations, rumbling away for several weeks, snowballed over the weekend, and led to clashes between protestors and the police on Tuesday night.
On Thursday, President Rosen Plevneliev – who is backed by GERB – said that, following the confirmation of the government's departure, he would offer the largest party in parliament the chance to form a new cabinet.
As this party is GERB, which has indicated that it will turn down the opportunity, the most likely outcome is the Plevneliev will form a caretaker cabinet and then call early elections for April or May.
"We assess that while the cabinet's resignation is likely to reduce protests nationwide, it is also likely to usher in political and constitutional crises in the three-month outlook," said Alexander Melikishvili, deputy head of Eurasia Forecasting, in a note on Wednesday. Melikishvili said that he expected Bulgaria's third caretaker administration since the fall of communism to be dominated by technocrats.
"Similar to the caretaker governments led by Stefan Sofiyanski in 1997 and Reneta Indjova in 1994-1995, it is unlikely to have any real policy impact," he said.
While the caretaker government will merely be hoping to steady the ship of state, Bulgaria's main parties – including GERB – are already ratcheting up their electioneering, in the media and on the streets.
While on Wednesday Borisov seemed almost apologetic and contrite about the violence between protestors and the police, in parliament he went on the offensive.
In a last broadside at his opponents, Borisov accused opposition politician Ahmed Dogan of masterminding a plot to assassinate him. Dogan was himself the subject of a botched and possibly bogus "assassination attempt" last month, the spectacular video of which was broadcast worldwide.
Dimitar Bechev, head of the Sofia office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank, told beyondbrics that he expected a period of "manoeuvring and heavy-duty campaigning".
Around 7000 GERB supporters gathered outside parliament, including farmers bringing their tractors and even livestock,and cheered Borisov as he left the building.
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