Long-time leader announces he will not seek another term as prime minister in bid to avoid national ‘divide’ following inconclusive election.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has said he will not be a candidate to lead the country’s next government after his centre-right party fell well short of a majority in a parliamentary vote earlier this month.
Borissov’s GERB party, which has led Bulgaria for most of the past decade, remained the biggest political force in the country following the April 4 polls. But it lost a fifth of its seats as public anger grew over rampant corruption, which boosted new protest parties and delivered a more fragmented parliament.
Borissov has been credited with modernising Bulgaria’s crumbling roads, boosting incomes and putting the country into the eurozone’s “waiting room” during his three terms in office.
But opposition parties accuse the 61-year-old of fostering a climate of impunity among powerful officials and politically connected businessmen in the European Union’s poorest state. Bulgaria also ranks as the bloc’s most corrupt member state, according to Transparency International.
Borissov said GERB would try to build enough support for a coalition government once President Rumen Radev gives them a mandate to do so but would propose another candidate to lead it.
“I think it is not right to divide the nation … So I will propose another prime minister, with a very clear European and NATO orientation,” Borissov told reporters during a trip to the central city of Veliko Tarnovo.
He declined to name any possible candidate for now, but said national unity was crucial at a time when Bulgaria is struggling to cope with a surge in COVID-19 infections and with the economic impact of lockdown restrictions.
Prospect of another election looms
The chances for a fourth GERB-led cabinet look slim as all other parties in the new parliament have rejected Borissov’s offer for a broad, technocrat government.
If GERB fails, the new, anti-systemic party of TV chat-show host Slavi Trifonov, now the second-largest in parliament, will be asked to try to form a government.
“The chances for a GERB government, even one not led by Borissov, are very small,” Rumiana Kolarova, political science lecturer at Sofia University, told Reuters news agency.
“But Borissov’s move positions him as a responsible statesman, and increases pressure on Trifonov’s party to act in similar fashion. It also allows Borissov to maintain electoral support in any eventual new election,” she said.
Trifonov’s party has repeatedly said it will not strike a deal with GERB, the Socialists or the ethnic Turkish MRF, leaving little scope for him to build a parliamentary majority.
If a third attempt to form a government also fails, the president must dissolve parliament, appoint an interim cabinet and call a new national election within two months.
Borissov said Trifonov should act responsibly and try to form a government if GERB fails.
Prolonged political uncertainty could hamper Bulgaria’s ability to tap effectively the EU’s 750 billion euro ($896bn) coronavirus Recovery Fund and slow its preparations to adopt the euro currency in 2024.