Sofia: The Bulgarian coalition faced a collapse on Wednesday just six months after taking office as parliamentarians were preparing to vote for a vote of no confidence. This is because if passed, it could mean a new election. However, analysts say there is no guarantee that another referendum in the country of 6.5 million people, who conducted three polls last year, will end the country’s political instability.

In the most recent elections last November, the liberal Kiril Petkov party came forward to form a cumbersome coalition government with the other three parties. Energetic and pro-European Prime Minister Petkov has promised to end the endemic corruption of Bulgaria after a decade of controversial conservative Boyko Borissov rule.

However, a coalition crack began to appear shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and earlier this month the dissident ITN party, led by entertainer Slavi Trifonov, withdrew support. Borisov’s conservative GERB party swiftly submitted a vote of no confidence on the grounds of “failure of the government’s economic and fiscal policy” as consumer inflation soared.

Voting takes place shortly after 7 pm local time (1600 GMT). A successful motion requires 121 votes in a 240-seat parliament. The ruling coalition can rely on the support of 109 of the 240 members. The six members of the ITN Group are also expected to support the government, but the only hope of sticking to power rests with more ITN members giving last-minute support.

In a rebellious speech to supporters outside parliament on the eve of the vote, Petkov swore: “Sooner or later Bulgaria will be where it should be. It’s prosperous, European, judicial, well-educated and well-equipped,” he said.

Exacerbation of tension

In a country with strong historic ties to Moscow, the Ukrainian conflict “accelerated division and weakened the government,” said Ruslan Stephanov, a think tank at the Center for Democracy Research. Despite Russia’s high reliance on gas and oil, Petkov opposed Moscow’s request to open a ruble account to pay for Russian gas. This is a response to European Union sanctions. As a result, the country faced a corresponding reduction in supply.

This means that they have noticed that the “Bulgarian oligarchs” on energy supply have been deprived of their income, said Ognyan Minchev, director of the Sophia-based Regional International Institute. And it “exacerbated tensions between the business community and the government, not just within the coalition,” he said.

Another source of tension was Ukraine’s appeal for weapons to fight the Russian invasion. Most political parties in the government were ready to approve such deliveries, but socialists (also part of the ruling coalition) remained opposed.

But the last straw was born out of the EU’s willingness to resolve a long-standing historical and cultural conflict between Bulgaria and neighboring North Macedonia. It was Petkov’s insistence on a reconciliation with Skopje that prompted ITN to end the coalition.

Fragmented landscape

Even if the government survives a vote of no confidence, the government will still struggle to govern, apparently due to a lack of majority, political analyst Dimital Dimitrov told public broadcaster BNR Wednesday. If the distrust resolution is passed, President Rumen Radev can make three attempts to see if any party can form a dominant majority.

If that is not possible, Congress will dissolve and politicians will return to the campaign for elections that must take place within two months. But even with new elections, it’s unlikely to provide a lasting solution to a highly fragmented political situation, said trend polling agency Dimital Ganev. Meanwhile, thousands of Bulgarian people are expected to appear on the streets on Wednesday to demonstrate Petkov’s willingness to reform. – AFP

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