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Bulgaria faces fifth election in two years, as pro-Kremlin Socialists fail to form gov’t

| 2023-01-22 2 min read

Bulgaria faces fifth election in two years, as pro-Kremlin Socialists fail to form gov’t

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Bulgaria is preparing for a new general election in the spring, following the failure of the country’s Socialist Party to form a working government.

The Socialists, who were given a third and final chance to establish a cabinet after the 2 October election brought no clear winner, announced that they were unable to garner enough support to form a government. 

Socialist leader Kornelia Ninova said “we have discussed the possible steps and decided to returning the third mandate to the president on Monday.”

Bulgaria has been plagued by political instability since mass protests against corruption in 2020, and this will be the country’s fifth general election in two years. 

Ninova explained that the party had attempted to find a solution to the country’s multiple crises, particularly the ongoing political crisis, but ultimately decided to return the mandate to the president. 

The lack of a stable government will likely impact Bulgaria’s plans to join the eurozone in 2024 and delay much-needed reforms to combat corruption, and could also impede the efficient use of billions of euros in EU recovery funds, Euractiv noted. 

Election likely, as news drops that ex-PM secretly helped Ukraine

The war in Ukraine has added an extra schism to Bulgarian politics, as the Socialist Party, the legal successor of the Communist Party, still has close links to the Kremlin.

When Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February, Bulgaria’s prime minister was Kiril Petkov, a political newcomer who aimed to steer the country towards a pro-Western and pro-NATO direction. Last week Petkov revealed the extent of Bulgaria’s involvement in the war to German daily Die Welt.

Despite public statements by the Socialist Party at that time that arms deliveries to Ukraine would be a “red line”, Petkov said approximately one-third of the ammunition used by Ukraine’s army during the early phase of the war came from Bulgaria, as his officials utilised intermediary companies to covertly send supplies via Romania, Hungary and Poland.

However, he had faced resistance from pro-Kremlin politicians in Bulgaria, including Socialist Party members in his own coalition, and even dismissed his defence minister for echoing Russian propaganda. A coalition with the pro-Kremlin Socialists may prove to be less viable after the next election.

In the last poll, in mid-December, Petkov’s pro-Western, anti-corruption party We Continue the Change was tailing GERB, led by right-wing politician Boyko Borisov, the dominant figure in Bulgarian politics over the last decade, by 18% to 25%.