Bulgarian MPs on Wednesday voted for a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Kiril Petkov.
This decision potentially prepares the ground for a new round of elections. However, Petkov’s centrist PP party has a second chance to propose a government to lawmakers.
The vote to overthrow the government, which only came to power 6 months ago, was close 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 over disputes over budget spending and Sofia’s blocking of North Macedonia’s EU membership.
Petkov had after a decade of rule by conservative Boyko Borissov.
However, the coalition began to look fragile soon after Russia invaded Ukraine, which deepened divisions with the government. While Petkov has taken a pro-European and pro-NATO stance since the start of the war, Bulgaria maintains close historical ties with Moscow. Petkov fired his defense minister shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine for refusing to call it a “war”.
Earlier this month, the anti-establishment ITN party led by artist Slavi Trifonov withdrew its support for the coalition.
Borisov’s conservative GERB party quickly tabled a motion of no confidence citing “the failure of the government’s economic and financial policy” amid soaring inflation.
Petkov said it was an honor to be overthrown by rival party leaders Borissov and Trifonov, also blaming Bulgarian oligarch and media mogul Delyan Peevski and Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Eleonora Mitrofanova.
“This vote is a small step on a long road. They didn’t understand that this was not the way to win over the Bulgarian people,” Petkov said, referring to his opponents.
The 42-year-old Harvard graduate vowed 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 since April 2021. Millions of euros from EU recovery funds could be at risk, along with 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 garner support for a new government.
Otherwise, it is believed that new polls could benefit Borissov’s GERB party – as well as pro-Russian parties like the nationalist Revival.
Such an outcome could delay EU membership for some Western Balkan countries and strengthen Russian influence in the region.
Bulgaria has consistently blocked North Macedonia’s application for EU membership, which has also indirectly hindered Albania’s membership.
Petkov was a “driving force” in pushing for a resolution to the conflict. Sofia insists that North Macedonia formally recognize that her language has Bulgarian roots. She also wants the country to recognize a Bulgarian minority in its constitution.
rc/rt (TSTIME, Reuters, TSTIME)