Bulgaria’s Trifonov makes ‘take it or leave it’ cabinet offer

Slavi Trifonov announces his proposal for a government on his TV channel, on 12 July 2021. [Dnevnik]

TV showman Slavi Trifonov, whose party narrowly won Sunday’s snap general elections in Bulgaria, surprisingly proposed on Monday (12 July) a minority government led by a former minister in Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha’s cabinet. The fragmented new parliament appears to have little choice but to accept it, or risk new elections in the poorest EU country.

With the vote from the Bulgarian diaspora, Trifonov’s anti-elite force “There is Such a People” (ITN) leapfrogged former prime minister Boyko Borissov’ centre-right GERB party, final counting revealed on Monday.

Before the diaspora votes came in, Borissov had a small lead of 6,000 votes over Trifonov.

According to the latest results, six parties will enter Parliament. Trifonov’s ITN captured 23.9% of the vote, followed by GERB at 23.7%, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) at 13.5%, Democratic Bulgaria at 12.6%, Movement of Rights and Freedoms at 10.7%, and ‘Stand up! Mafia out!’ at 5%.

The three protest parties – ITN, Democratic Bulgaria of Hristo Ivanov, and “Stand up! Mafia out!” of Maya Manolova – were widely expected to join forces in a future government.

However, Trifonov surprisingly announced he would not enter any coalitions and instead tabled the cabinet list of a minority government representing exclusively his force.

According to the Constitution, after the new parliament is inaugurated, President Rumen Radev will give the party that won the most votes – in this case, ITN – the first chance to form a government.

Trifonov’s party would have only around 60 MPs in the 240-member Parliament. In theory, Trifonov could count on the support of the other “protest” parties, but even so, he would be short by some 10 MPs of the necessary 121-seat majority.

Trifonov could also count on the support of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and of the mostly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS). Former king Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was in a coalition with both during his tenure as prime minister in 2005-2009.

Other attempts to form a government appear doomed. Borissov’s GERB party, smeared by allegations of cronyism and corruption, is in heavy isolation from all other political players and has no coalition potential.

How long would a minority government, as proposed by Trifonov, survive is subject to speculation. The country badly needs some constitutional stability at least until the presidential elections, expected in November.

President Radev, who stands for re-election, must name a caretaker cabinet at the latest three months before the presidential election.

The prime minister proposed by Trifonov is Nikolay Vassilev, a 51-year-old Western-trained economist, currently a managing partner at Expat Capital, one of the largest independent asset management companies in Bulgaria.

Vassilev’s career in Bulgaria started when former king Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, acting in his capacity of prime minister, appointed him as deputy prime minister and economy minister in 2001.

Trifonov played it safe also with the proposal for foreign minister – Radi Naydenov, 49, who served as chief of cabinet to Saxe-Coburg-Gotha before being appointed ambassador to Germany. He also briefly served as foreign minister in a caretaker cabinet in 2017.

The proposed minister of economy, Lyubomir Datsov, is also a recognisable name, having served as deputy minister of finance in two previous cabinets.

The other proposed ministers are less known.

Maria Boychinova, proposed for the finance portfolio, has worked with US companies. The prospective minister of energy, Krassimir Nenov, has worked for Contour Global, a British power-generation business.

The proposed defence minister is Teodora Genchovska, an expert from the defence ministry who, if confirmed, will be the first woman at the post.

Another novelty is the proposed minister for Roma issues, Antonia Valentinova, a doctor, herself an ethnic Roma.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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