New centrist faction seeks to form ‘Coalition of the honest’ in Bulgaria

Assen Vassilev [L] and Kiril Petkov [C] announce their project on 19 September 2021. [Tzvetelina Belutova/Dnevnik]

Popular former interim economy and finance ministers have set up a centrist political faction to compete in Bulgaria’s third parliamentary election this year on pledges to tackle widespread corruption and foster a fairer distribution of wealth.

The European Union’s poorest member state is facing a new election on 14 November, after inconclusive votes in April and July. The parliamentary election will coincide with the presidential election in which the President Rumen Radev is seeking reelection.

Public anger over corruption brought down former centre-right Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, but wrangling and rivalry have prevented his political opponents, the so-called “parties of change”, from forging a parliamentary majority and forming a new government.

Appointed by Radev as interim ministers in May, Harvard-educated Kiril Petkov, 41, and Assen Vassilev, 44, have gained public recognition for their efforts to uncover graft-prone shortcomings in Borissov’s government.

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Bulgarians head for the third parliamentary election for this year, hoping that this time a new political force could become the game-changer and break the political deadlock. EURACTIV Bulgaria reports.

The interim administration has accused Borissov’s government of spending billions of levs of taxpayer money on infrastructure projects without proper procurement, among other wrongdoings.

Speaking to the media on Sunday (19 September), the two said their faction, named “We Are Continuing the Change” would seek to build “a coalition of the honest” in the next parliament.

“We are continuing the change. In the past four months we have started the change with clear goals – to stop the corruption and the theft,” Petkov told reporters.

“Whether you are right or left is not important, what is important is integrity. We are here to work with honest people, whatever their political bias,” he said.

The new faction, which supports Bulgarian membership in the EU and NATO, believes the country should keep its low corporate and income tax rates but improve controls on how public funds are spent and provide a level playing field for all.

Recent opinion polls show the new faction could win 9% of the vote in November, becoming one of six or seven political parties that are expected to enter the next parliament.

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