Is GERB's Government Casting Turning Ugly?
Speculation about where the next Bulgarian government is being forged is now over.
It's not in conservative GERB leader Boyko Borisov's home in Bankya, on the outskirts of the capital Sofia, but in GERB's headquarters, and Tuesday delivered the best of proofs.
The mystery about the essence of GERB's government consultations among Bulgaria's political leaders also suddenly came to an end, evolving into rains of offers all targeting Borisov, the man who hardly any voter doubts will be the next Prime Minister if a cabinet is formed without the need of new early elections. Reformists have just produced the case in point.
The past week brought all but boredom to Bulgaria's political life. There were seven, and not five, working days, since election winner GERB held consultations with all parties which made it into Parliament on October 5. Formally they were more of a "feasibility study", with each party counting the cost of possibly supporting, rejecting or even participating in whatever GERB has to offer as a mandate-bearer.
Informally, they had to pave the way for political bargaining. But bargaining descended into a chaotic auction just two days after consultations were over.
GERB generally disagreed with the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), agreed with the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) but refused to join hands with it.
It slightly disagreed with the Reformist Bloc but kept reiterating it was their "natural partner", got along with the Patriotic Front, swiftly turned down any cooperation with populist Bulgaria without Censorship and ultra-nationalist Ataka and (somewhat surprisingly) showed willingness to work together with left-wing Alternative for Bulgarian Revival (ABV), the party of ex-BSP President (2002-2012) Georgi Parvanov, usually a fierce critic of the bulk of GERB's policy proposals.
This peculiar week of consultations resulted in a decision that a total of four parties had passed the "government casting": the BSP, Reformists, nationalists and ABV.
Everyone had expected the Reformist Bloc would quickly strike an agreement (though still an informal one) with conservatives, but it was the Patriotic Front that first did. ABV also seemed to have found more common ground with GERB during the consultations than the Reformists.
A surprise was now delivered to the BSP and the right-wingers, tipped as "unlikely" and "certain" to make it into the short-list, respectively. RB had already heard from Borisov it was GERB's most certain partner, but had come at loggerheads about possible participation of socialists and nationalists (the latter rejecting one of the parties within the RB coalition) and also about key positions in the next cabinet.
Socialists, on the other hand, have so far been determined to remain an opposition, but confirmed Tuesday they would attend the "second round" of consultations if invited, amid renewed suggestions a "grand coalition" far beyond a simple GERB-BSP model was in preparation.
And then, promptly, it was the Reformist Bloc that kick-started the new consultations, with leaders of five parties (seldom agreeing on their relations with GERB) rushing to GERB's headquarters on Tuesday evening.
Both GERB and the RB announced after the meeting they had made a "rapprochement", bringing their positions a step closer.
The prospect of an alliance of GERB and the PF with either socialists or Parvanov's ABV seems to be the driving force for Reformists, a coalition made of parties desperately clinging to the idea of not allowing, again, to remain out of Parliament and disintegrate, as it happened with one-time political "giant" ODS (United Democratic Forces) that enjoyed huge popular support back in mid-1990s.
Looking at these so-called "consultations", one can guess that either parties are bidding to co-form a cabinet with conservatives or GERB is just playing its cards in a subtle enough manner to bring certain parties where it wants them to be.
Or it might be letting them fiercely compete to spare itself from a tough choice.
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