Bulgarian government loses no-confidence vote, early elections loom

Bulgarian government loses no-confidence vote, early elections loom

  • Disputes over fiscal policy as inflation soars
  • The government had a strong position on NATO
  • Petkov expects defections to form new government

SOFIA, June 22 (Reuters) – A no-confidence motion on Wednesday toppled Bulgaria’s government and Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, who had vowed to tackle corruption and took an unusually strong stance against Russia.

Opposition lawmakers ousted the government, which took power six months ago, in a 123-116 vote after the ruling coalition lost its majority over disputes over budget spending and whether Bulgaria should unlock North Macedonia’s accession. to the EU.

They accused the government of failing to implement fiscal and economic policies to control rising inflation in the European Union’s poorest member state.

Sign up now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Bulgaria now faces possibly its fourth general election since April 2021, putting millions of euros of EU recovery funds and its plans to adopt the euro in 2024 at risk.

“This vote is just a small step on a very long road,” Petkov said after the vote. “What they don’t understand is that this is not the way to win over the Bulgarian people.”

Petkov, a 42-year-old Harvard graduate who has vowed to fight corruption, has taken a strong pro-European and pro-NATO stance since Russia invaded Ukraine, an unusual stance for a country traditionally friendly to Moscow.

Petkov fired his defense minister in February for refusing to call Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “war,” backed EU sanctions against Moscow and agreed to repair Ukraine’s heavy military machinery without actually sending weapons to Kyiv.

The resulting political stalemate may also hamper Bulgaria’s efforts to secure stable natural gas inflows after Moscow cut off gas deliveries to the country, which was almost entirely dependent on Russian gas, over Sofia’s refusal to pay in rubles.

Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev expressed hope that parliament would continue to vote to approve budget changes drafted to increase state pensions and support households as food and fuel prices rise.

Former coalition partner ITN left the government after accusing Petkov of ignoring Bulgaria’s interests in pushing to lift his veto of North Macedonia’s EU accession talks under pressure from his EU and NATO allies. .

Petkov has argued that any decision on the veto must be put to a vote in parliament. Earlier on Wednesday, in a sudden reversal, the main opposition party, GERB, said it would support lifting the veto, but political wrangling prevented a debate on the issue.

Lawmakers will meet again on Thursday to discuss whether Sofia should unblock Skopje’s EU membership. Petkov will uphold Bulgaria’s veto at this week’s EU summit unless parliament gives him a different mandate.

Petkov has rejected any coalition negotiations with opposition parties in the chamber, but will seek lawmakers’ defection to gain enough support for a new government and avoid snap elections.

President Rumen Radev is due to call elections within two months and appoint an interim administration if Petkov fails to muster a majority for a new cabinet and if two other parties in parliament cannot form a government.

The motion against the ruling coalition was proposed by former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s GERB party, which is likely to benefit from new polls along with pro-Russian parties such as the nationalist Revival in a society polarized by economic problems and the war in Ukraine.

Sign up now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova, Writing by Michael Kahn, Editing by Bernadette Baum, David Gregorio, and Richard Pullin

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.