Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov lost his majority in parliament yesterday (10 May) after the resignation of his deputy Ivailo Kalfin, a member of the ABV party which withdrew its backing for the centre-right coalition.
Kalfin, who also served as Deputy Prime Minister for Demographic and Social Policies and Minister of Labor and Social Policy, stepped down after the centre-left ABV (Alternative for Bulgarian Revival) said it would no longer back the government.
Kalfin is a household name in Brussels, where he has served as MEP and is currently representing the Socialists in the high-level group on own resources, better known as the ‘Monti group’.
Speaking on national television this morning, Kalfin said his resignation was the result of his party’s decision to stop supporting the cabinet, and that he was against early elections, as the country needed stability.
Founded by former President Georgy Parvanov, the ABV party has 11 deputies, which guaranteed Borisov a narrow majority of 125 within the 240-seat parliament.
A former bodyguard, firefighter and police chief, Borissov has governed on the basis of a fluctuating majority for the past three years following a first term in office between 2009 and February 2013 when he stepped down during mass nationwide protests about poverty and corruption.
His GERB party only won 83 seats in the 2014 elections, forcing him to form a minority government with the right-wing Reformist Bloc (23 lawmakers), 10 of whom have since joined the opposition.
The two parties had also secured support from the moderate nationalist Patriotic Front (18 seats) and the ABV.
ABV’s decision to withdraw its support for the coalition gives greater weight to the Patriotic Front, which recently presented a bill which would ban Muslim women from wearing the full veil.
The first test for Borissov is expected to be a vote in parliament to upturn the veto of the President Rossen Plevneliev on a new election law. The Patriotic Front has warned that it would withdraw its support if the veto is not upturned.
On 22 April, MPs voted to limit the opening of polling stations outside the country only to Bulgaria’s diplomatic and consular missions – a move clearly directed against opposition party the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), which in all recent elections has garnered massive numbers of votes at polling stations in Turkey. The Patriotic Front wants to make sure that the limitation of polling stations is maintained.
Presidential election looming
Although the ABV emerged out of a split within the Bulgarian Socialist party (BSP), the two may decide to field a joint candidate for the upcoming presidential election in October.
On Sunday (8 May), BSP elected a new leader, which is seen as analysts as a chance for a rapprochement between this force and ABV.
Many analysts believe that Kalfin would be a strong candidate for president. If a candidate of the left wins the presidency, this would certainly trigger early elections, most analysts agree.
Former BSP leader Mihail Mikov, a close ally to Sergei Stanishev, who leads the Party of European Socialists (PES), treated ABV as traitors. Stanishev himself has reportedly prevented ABV from acceding to PES.