Bulgaria’s populists reject mandate to form government, set stage for snap vote

By Thomson Reuters Mar 28, 2024 | 5:29 AM

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s populist There Is Such a People (ITN) party declined on Thursday to try to form a new national government, paving the way for President Rumen Radev to call snap elections.

ITN’s move came after the centre-right GERB party and its former coalition partner We Continue the Change (PP) both said they could not form a new government.

“Elections are the highest form of democracy, we’re going to hold this folder for a few more seconds and return it to you empty, with an unfulfilled mandate,” Ivaylo Valchev, the deputy-head of the ITN parliamentary faction, told Radev in a meeting.

Radev said he will now start seeking a caretaker prime minister to form a cabinet that would be tasked with organising a snap election.

Bulgaria, the poorest member of the EU and one of its most corrupt states, has been rocked by political instability since anti-graft protests in 2020. Until elections in April 2023 it has been governed by caretaker governments, appointed by Radev in the absence of a stable elected coalition.

Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Mariya Gabriel failed to form a government following the resignation of Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov of the PP on March 5.

Denkov stepped down to allow the GERB to lead the government for nine months, as agreed after last year’s elections. On Wednesday he also rejected Radev’s invitation to try to form a government.

In elections last April, GERB came first, winning 69 seats in the 240-seat parliament. The bloc led by PP won 64 seats. Under the constitution, the Bulgarian parliament does not have to dissolve prior to snap elections.

(Reporting by Stoyan Nenov and Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Angus MacSwan)