Bulgaria to hold new snap general election after parties fail to form government

By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia

Bulgaria will hold a snap general election at the end of March as none of the parties in the current parliament, formed after the October general election, managed to put together a new ruling coalition.

The third and final mandate to form a government, given by President Rumen Radev to the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), failed on January 20.

The most likely date for the next vote – the fifth in two years – is March 26 or April 2.

In a final step before calling the vote, Radev summoned the leaders of all parliamentary parties to a meeting on January 20 to discuss whether a majority could be formed.

Along with the BSP, only three other parties accepted the invitation – Gerb, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) and Bulgarian Ascend.

Four-party coalition planned

Although the four parties decided not to form a coalition in this parliament, they agreed that they could form a ruling coalition in the next parliament.

Despite their very different political orientation, the four parties were widely expected to join forces at some point after they worked together to back a return to paper ballots — a move seen as creating space for electoral fraud. They were even dubbed “the paper coalition” for that reason.

If the four parties do form a ruling coalition, however, they would form a programme government with specific tasks.

The mooted coalition drew criticism from the reformist parties in the current parliament, Change Continues and Democratic Bulgaria.

“Why are we going to have the next election as today Gerb, the BSP and the DPS have pledged to work together and form a government? Why they don’t they do it now?' Nikolai Denkov of Change Continues commented.

Assen Vassilev, co-leader of Change Continues, said that if Gerb, the DPS, the BSP and Bulgarian Ascend join forces in the future, this would take the country back to the past.

Democratic Bulgaria’s co-leader Hristo Ivanov also said the four parties would drag the country back.

For her part, BSP leader Kornelia Ninova criticised Change Continues and Democratic Bulgaria for refusing to attend the meeting with Radev. She accused them of being responsible for the failure of the third mandate.

Reformist coalition planned

Meanwhile, Change Continues and Democratic Bulgaria are discussing running together in the next general election. That coalition could also include Save Sofia and other reformist formations that are not currently represented in parliament.

A similar coalition was proposed by Ivanov ahead of the October 2 vote, but at the time Change Continues decided that it should run on its own and join forces with Democratic Bulgaria after the election.

The two formations have many similar priorities, but Democratic Bulgaria is positioning itself as a right-wing formation, while Change Continues says it want to achieve “right measures with left goals”, focusing more on social spending and reforms.

Following the failure of the last mandate, Radev said he would keep the caretaker government led by Prime Minister Gulub Donev in place, and accused the political parties in parliament of lacking the will to take responsibility for the crisis in the country.