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Bulgaria’s Political and Economic Impasse

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In Bulgaria, which went to polls for the fourth time on October 2, 2022, a government could not be formed yet due to political instability and economic difficulties. In the current period, the negotiation process for the establishment of government in the country continues, which is managed under the Prime Ministership of pro-Russian Galab Donev. However, due to disagreements between political parties, the possibility of forming a new government in Bulgaria is very low. As a matter of fact, the following statement made by President Rumen Radev on November 28, 2022, when he started final consultations with the Bulgarian Rise Party on the formation of a government, clearly reveals that negotiations were not successful:[1]

“A month has passed since consultations began. I gave sufficient time to political parties represented in the parliament to find a way out of conflict and to reach a rational consensus on the formation of a cabinet. However, parliament decided to deal with Electoral Law instead of addressing the issues that concern Bulgarian citizens.”

Therefore, it is thought that the possibility of early elections in Bulgaria continues to be valid. As a matter of fact, President Radev gave the signal for early elections in a statement he made on November 21, 2022.[2]

“I will not plan elections in January and February. We can speculate what this will lead to, and the risk of even lower voter turnout is real. If a government is not formed, new elections will be held in March at the earliest.”

On the other hand, the Bulgarian Rise Party was given the task to form the cabinet in the country. As a matter of fact, party leader Stefan Yanev said, “The important thing is to form a majority to support the cabinet. Early elections will not solve any problem that concerns citizens and society.”[3] and stated he was ready to meet with all entities represented in parliament. However, although it is thought that Yanev will not get enough support to form the government, there is a possibility that he will receive support from pro-Russian Vazrazhdane (Revival Party) and Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). In addition, there is talk of the We Continue the Change Party (PP) forming a coalition with Democratic Bulgaria Party (DB). However, considering the developments and conjuncture in the country, the creation of a new cabinet will be a surprise due to disagreements between the parties.

However, during ongoing negotiations to form a government, the proposal of the Citizens Party for European Development (GERB-SDS), Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) and the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) to amend the Election Law and to return the paper ballot papers constitute one of the important agenda topics.

The draft law, which foresees a change in the Election Law, started to be discussed by the Bulgarian Parliament on November 24, 2022. In particular, it is aimed to bring back paper ballot papers in elections related to the amendment, which PP and DB oppose.[4] As a matter of fact, PP leader Petkov said, “They know that new elections are close and they want the next elections to be held with the old-fashioned paper fraud.”.[5] Citizens of the country are also reacting to change that causes disagreement between political parties in the Parliament. Thousands of people protested in front of the Parliament building on November 29, 2022, arguing that the reintroduction of paper ballot papers would pave the way for irregularities such as the validation of invalid votes in the elections.[6]

Amendments to the Election Law are considered preparations for early elections. The goal here is to gain the trust of the voters. However, it is very difficult to establish trust through such changes. On the contrary, following this strategy may lead to a decrease in the trust of voters in the state. For this reason, re-election in Bulgaria will cause this loss of confidence to increase even more. The lowest turnout in history in the last elections was the biggest indicator of this. Therefore, the establishment of a coalition government between political parties seems extremely essential. It is known that Bulgarian citizens are tired of going to the polls and they expect a stable government to be established as soon as possible.

While issues such as government formation negotiations and changes in the Election Law reflect the stalemate in domestic politics; the absence of a stable government also makes it difficult to solve problems in the economy. So much so that in the face of rising inflation figures, trade unionists organized protests demanding improvement in living conditions.

On the other hand, the current situation in the country poses a major obstacle to the approval of the state budget for 2023. As a matter of fact, in the vote of the Bulgarian Parliament on November 29, 2022, it was decided to extend the old budget. If these fiscal policies continue, the budget is expected to have a deficit of 6.5%. In addition, the budget issue is one of the issues of disagreement between political parties. Because while the PP insists on the submission of a new budget by the interim government for 2023; GERB, BSP and Bulgarian Rise advocate the submission of the budget not by the interim government, but by the new cabinet to be formed.[7]

As a result, the political crisis that has been going on for nearly two years in Bulgaria has dragged the country into a deadlock both politically and economically. Based on all these developments, the expectation that a stable government will be established in the current process seems quite low. Therefore, it is possible for Bulgaria to go to the polls again in March 2023.


[1] “Bulgarian Rise: The Important Thing Now is to form A Cabinet, Snap Elections Will Not Solve Any Problems”, BNR, https://bnr.bg/en/post/101743119/bulgarian-rise-the-important-thing-now-is-to-form-a-cabinet-snap-elections-will-not-solve-any-problems, (Date of Accession: 29.11.2022).

[2] “If No Government is Formed, There Will be New Elections in March at the Earliest: President Radev”, BNR, https://bnr.bg/en/post/101739512/if-no-government-is-formed-there-will-be-new-elections-in-march-at-the-earliest-president-radev, (Date of Accession: 29.11.2022).

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Election Code Revisions to Be Voted at Next Sitting of Parliament”, Bulgarian News Agency, https://www.bta.bg/en/news/366906-election-code-revisions-to-be-voted-at-next-sitting-of-parliament (Date of Accession: 30.11.2022).

[5] “Anti-Paper-Ballot Protesters Block Traffic in Sofia”, Bulgarian News Agency, https://www.bta.bg/en/news/bulgaria/368625-anti-paper-ballot-protesters-against-paper-ballot-block-traffic-in-sofia, (Date of Accession: 30.11.2022).

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Bulgarian MPs Accepted the Budget Extension at First Reading”, Novinite, https://www.novinite.com/articles/217768/Bulgarian+MPs+accepted+the+Budget+Extension+at+First+Reading, (Date of Accession: 30.11.2022).

Sibel MAZREK
Lisans eğitimini Gazi Üniversitesi İletişim Fakültesi'nde tamamlayan Sibel Mazrek, yüksek lisans eğitimine Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Lisansüstü Eğitim Enstitüsü'nde Gazetecilik Ana Bilim Dalı'nda devam etmektedir. Çeşitli medya kuruluşlarında muhabirlik, spikerlik sunuculuk görevlerini üstlenen Mazrek, ANKASAM'da Medya Koordinatörü olarak çalışmalarına devam etmektedir.