Kiril Petkov speaking to the media. (Picture: via Facebook)
Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov officially resigned on Monday June 28, after his government lost a vote of no confidence last week. The government fell after losing support from the populist There Is Such a People (ITN) party which disagreed with its budget spending policies and the issue of North Macedonia’s membership in the European Union (EU). The coalition government made up of Petkov’s pro-EU We Continue Change (PP) party, the centre-left Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), Democratic Bulgaria, ITN and others, had the support of 123 legislators in the 240 seats of the National Assembly. With the withdrawal of the ITN, the government lost the vote with 123 votes against and 116 for.
Petkov now has a week to form a new government. If he fails, it is likely that new elections will be held – the fourth in almost a year and a half.
Petkov came to power following parliamentary elections in November 2021 in which the conservative coalition government led by GERB leader Boyko Borisov was overthrown. Borisov was in power in Bulgaria from 2009 to 2021. Under Borisov’s regime, attacks on the press, racism, xenophobia, corruption and organized crime increased in the country. Anti Corruption protests which began in July 2020 demanding Borisov’s resignation continued in April 2021 when his cabinet’s four-year term ended with the formal resignation of the third Borisov government. In the two consecutive National Assembly elections held in April and July 2021, the ITN led by Bulgarian TV celebrity Slavi Trifonov emerged as the largest party but failed to form a majority government. However, ITN suffered setbacks in the November 2021 elections when Petkov’s PP became the largest party. The ITN then agreed to cooperate with the PP-led coalition.
Rifts within the coalition appeared after the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war. Prime Minister Petkov, who gave strong support to Ukraine, sacked his defense minister, considered pro-Russian. Petkov has been accused of toeing the EU line and following its dictates against Russia. The issue of North Macedonia’s EU membership also played a big role in the downfall of the government. Petkov, at the request of prominent EU countries, was trying to remove the veto that Bulgaria had placed on North Macedonia’s EU membership.
Observers have pointed out that ITN switched sides as part of a political bet anticipating a snap election to improve its ratings by garnering support from nationalist sections that do not favor lifting the Bulgarian veto in the accession of North Macedonia. According to ITN leader Trifonov, North Macedonia should start negotiations only after implementing the 2017 Good Neighbor Agreement between Bulgaria and North Macedonia.
Meanwhile, on June 24, the PP’s proposal to lift the Bulgarian veto on North Macedonia’s EU membership and continue bilateral talks was adopted with the support of GERB and minority parties in the EU. ‘opposition. ITN lawmakers voted against the plan while BSP abstained. The GERB-led government had previously blocked negotiations between Bulgaria and North Macedonia.
The BSP leadership criticized the ITN and the opposition for conspiring to destabilize the country and breaking government policies aimed at creating a welfare state.
Journalist Kadrinka Kadrinova expressed her opinion in Baricada.org that “without a leftist movement, Bulgaria will always turn in a closed circle between Kiril and Boyko because there is no choice in Bulgaria because all the politicians that are proposed to us are more and more on the right – whether they are thugs or flavored to western standards.”