Members of the Bulgarian parliament voted on Wednesday for a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Kiril Petkov.
The move potentially sets the stage for another round of elections. However, Petkov’s centrist PP party has a second chance to propose a government to parliamentarians.
The vote to remove the government, which came to power only 6 months ago, was a close vote with 123 delegates voting in favor and 116 against.
Why was there a vote of no confidence?
The vote comes after the ruling coalition lost its majority amid disputes over budget spending and Sofia’s blockade of North Macedonia’s EU membership.
Petkov was then ruled by the conservative Boyko Borissov for a decade.
However, the coalition began to look shaky shortly after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, which accentuated the divisions with the government. While Petkov has taken a strong pro-European and pro-NATO position since the beginning of the war, Bulgaria has strong historical ties to Moscow. Petkov fired his defense minister shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine for refusing to call it “war.”
Earlier this month, the anti-establishment ITN party led by entertainer Slavi Trifonov withdrew its support from the coalition.
Borisov’s conservative GERB party quickly tabled a no-confidence motion citing “the failure of the government’s economic and financial policy” amid rising inflation.
Petkov said it was an honor to be ousted by rival party leaders Borissov and Trifonov, also blaming Bulgarian oligarch and media mogul Delyan Peevski and Russia’s ambassador to Bulgaria, Eleonora Mitrofanova.
“This vote is a small step on a long road. They did not understand that this is not the way to win over the Bulgarian people,” said Petkov, referring to his opponents.
The 42-year-old Harvard graduate vowed that he would continue to fight for Bulgaria to be a “normal” European state.
What happens now?
The country could now face its fourth general election from April 2021. Millions of euros from EU recovery funds could be at risk, as well as the country’s plans to adopt the euro in 2024.
Petkov could avoid new elections and formal coalition talks with other parties if there are enough defections among lawmakers to gain support for a new government.
Otherwise, fresh polls are thought to benefit Borissov’s GERB party – as well as pro-Russian parties such as the nationalist Revival.
Such an outcome could hold back the EU accession of some Western Balkan countries, and strengthen Russian influence in the region.
Bulgaria has consistently blocked North Macedonia’s bid to join the EU, something that has also indirectly prevented Albania from joining.
Petkov has been a “driving force” in pushing for a resolution of the dispute. Sofia insists that North Macedonia formally recognizes that its language has Bulgarian roots. You also want the country to recognize a Bulgarian minority in its constitution.
rc/rt (AFP, Reuters, AP)