Bulgaria: Early Elections Seem Inevitable

Politics | June 24, 2022, Friday // 10:47
Bulgaria: Bulgaria: Early Elections Seem Inevitable Bulgarian President Rumen Radev (left) and Prime Minister in resignation Kiril Petkov (right) @Council of Ministers

Another early parliamentary election seems increasingly likely after the overthrow of Kiril Petkov's government, and the earliest realistic date for this is set for September 25, according to unofficial comments from the main parliamentary forces. According to the requests so far, the chances for a new cabinet within this National Assembly are rather theoretical and the party headquarters are already considering the deadlines for the exhaustion of the constitutional procedure and are informally discussing the appropriate dates for convening a vote.

Calculations show that if the procedure is carried out at the usual pace - without too much haste, but also without undue delay, this parliament will probably go down in history at the end of July. Thus, there will certainly be time to adopt bills identified as a priority - updating the budget with aid due to the economic crisis and bills on which the receipt of funds under the European Recovery and Sustainability Plan depends. This is the period in which Petkov's cabinet will remain in power, albeit in resignation, before being succeeded by a caretaker government.

According to the Constitution, after a vote of no confidence, the Prime Minister must submit the resignation of the government to the National Assembly. Yesterday in Brussels, Kiril Petkov said he would do so on Monday morning (June 27th). According to constitutionalists, there should be an official document, but it is not necessary to vote for the resignation, as it is assumed that with a vote of no confidence the National Assembly practically revokes the governing mandate it gave to the Council of Ministers in its election.

The president is then obliged to launch a new constitutional procedure for nominating a cabinet, which includes three attempts within the current National Assembly. The first step is to convene consultations with parliamentary groups before handing over a mandate to form a new government.

What will "We Continue the Change" do

The Basic Law does not set a deadline for when the consultations will convene and how long they will last before the first term is handed over, but according to unofficial information from the presidency, Rumen Radev does not intend to procrastinate.

The first opportunity to form a cabinet will be given to the largest group - "We Continue the Change", whose candidate for prime minister will have seven days to propose a new Council of Ministers. The requests are that the party will certainly nominate a cabinet, and from Kiril Petkov's comments on the evening of the no-confidence vote, it became clear that he will again be the nominee for prime minister. Asen Vassilev also confirmed it in an interview with “Dnevnik”, although he did not completely rule out other possibilities.

As an alternative, the name of the removed Speaker of the National Assembly Nikola Minchev is mentioned on the sidelines of the Parliament, but so far there are no indications that it has been seriously discussed. According to “Dnevnik”, the possibility was mentioned on "We Continue the Change" by the coalition partners, but was rejected with the explanation that Kiril Petkov and Asen Vassilev are the best tandem.

The formation of a draft cabinet should not take time for the ruling party, especially since Asen Vassilev commented that the party intends to propose a government similar to the current one.

However, it is likely that "We Continue the Change" will not be in a hurry to return the mandate to give itself time to negotiate and secure the missing at least six votes that will be needed to elect a government if the newly formed majority of "There Is Such a People", GERB, DPS and "Vazrazhdane" is mobilized as it happened for the vote of no confidence.

The resigned prime minister continues to support the thesis that he will give "another chance to individual deputies if they want to change their opinion", mostly relying on representatives of "There Is Such a People". This is the only option for Petkov, who has repeatedly declared that he does not want interaction with the four formations that voted against him.

Former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov's calls for the parties to look at their programs and build on their Euro-Atlantic similarities in search of common priorities were rejected with the ironic remark that if Borissov goes to a warm island, decent people to work with will probably be found in GERB.

Our main goal is to fight corruption. It can't happen as long as you have a partner who has been part of the system of corruption,” said Kiril Petkov.

However, Kiril Petkov has made it clear that he is not betting much on finding support for a new government and considers early elections to be "most likely".

The president's moves

Given the travels and meetings of the prime minister and the president, the earliest possible date for consultations before the first term is June 27 (Monday), as soon as the resignation formally takes place. The Constitution does not specify whether the talks should be all or only with some parties, or whether they should be separate or with all at once. The president is responsible for this.

The next opportunity for talks with parliamentary groups is in early July, as Rumen Radev will be at a NATO meeting in Madrid from June 28th to 30th.

If in the first ten days of July "We Continue the Change" receives the first term and it is confirmed that it will not be able to secure votes for his election, the president must give the opportunity to form a cabinet of GERB, which is the second largest group.

There is no deadline for this under the Constitution either, but it does not make sense for it to be slow. The first reason for this is that Boyko Borissov's party gave a clear answer as to what they will do with the mandate - they will return it unfulfilled. “It is not right for the second to form a government, the government must be formed by the first,” Tomislav Donchev said. In this situation, GERB is unlikely to take advantage of the seven-day deadline to propose a government.

According to the constitutionalist Assoc. Prof. Natalia Kiselova, there may be another argument for the president not to delay the second term:

The more time the president gives to the current parliament, the more the new majority can pass its own bills”.

This timelessness, which will now occur, can lead to quite a lot of legal ‘Frankensteins’. For example, the return of specialized courts and prosecutors may be returned,” said Assoc. Prof. Natalia Kiselova.

Thus, it is possible that by about July 17, the president will have to hand over the third last term to form a government to a party of his choice. So far, he has twice given it to BSP. Although the relations between the leader Kornelia Ninova and Rumen Radev are visibly strained and three days ago he claimed that it was too early to think to whom he would give the last chance to form a government, there are informal signals from the presidency that the head of state will give it again to the Socialist Party.

The reason is that "this would be the most logical approach", a representative of the presidency believes, because BSP has the third-largest parliamentary group, after DPS, from which the president wants to publicly differentiate himself. Kornelia Ninova commented that early elections are "the most difficult and unacceptable option", but the hypotheses about BSP's moves, what would it do if it had the last chance to avoid it, are not even commented on unofficially. Usually, such decisions go through the broad leadership of the Socialist Party - the so-called National Council.

The only public call for readiness to win a third term came from "There Is Such a People" as soon as they left the ruling coalition. The party declined to comment on what they would do in such a case, but according to the resigned deputies, the scenario under discussion envisages the formation of an expert or program cabinet with ministers from the formation and other publicly known experts, and with the parliamentary support of GERB and DPS.

Why can the elections be on September 25 at the earliest

In the latest attempt, the mandate is taken not by a candidate for prime minister, but by a parliamentary group. It has no deadline to nominate a prime minister, as an argument to allow time for parties to negotiate. Once nominated, the candidate for prime minister has seven days to present a draft cabinet, according to a ruling by the Constitutional Court.

Due to the very low probability that the third term will be fulfilled, it may turn out that the constitutional procedure will be completed by around July 24. Thus, the president will have to appoint a caretaker government, dissolve the 47th National Assembly and set a date for new elections, which according to the Constitution may be at the earliest two months after the end of parliament. Therefore, if all conditional hypotheses are confirmed, the first possible Sunday for early elections is September 25th.

Of course, with a faster transition through the constitutional procedure, it is possible that the elections will take place a week earlier - on September 18, but this is less likely because it would still mean a greater extent to the election campaign which will coincide with the active holiday period.

As of September 15, the students will return to school, and by then most of the people should have returned from vacation. According to politicians, the inconvenience of this date stems from the official holiday of September 22, which this year falls on a Thursday, and many will probably take a day off for the last long weekend.

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