Co-head of ‘We Continue the Change’, Kiril Petkov, says coalition talks with partners are ’90 per cent’ finished – paving the way for the formation of a new government and an end to Bulgaria’s political stalemate.
The leader ‘We continue the change’, Kiril Petkov, welcomes a colleague before the first session of the new parliament in Sofia, December 3, 2021. Photo: EPA-EFE/VASSIL DONEV
The co-leader of “We Continue the Change” and likely next Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Kiril Petkov, on Monday said his party and its coalition partners had reached “a 90-per-cent agreement” on a governing agenda.
“We managed to create a coalition document, which was finalised at midnight,” said Petkov, who was caretaker Minister of Economy between May and September in the presidentially-appointed interim cabinet before forming a new centrist option, “We Continue the Change”, along with another former caretaker minister, Asen Vassilev.
“Our three coalition partners will return their notes on the coalition agreement we sent to them by tomorrow [Tuesday] afternoon,” Petkov added.
“We Continue the Change” surpassed all expectations when it made its election debut in the November 14 general elections – and came first, surprisingly, winning 25.67 per cent of the votes. They were the third elections in Bulgaria in 2021 after two inconclusive elections in April and July.
Later this week, President Rumen Radev will hand a mandate to “We Continue the Change” who are nearing the end of coalition talks with Democratic Bulgaria, “There’s Such a People” and the Bulgarian Socialist Party – a politically fragmented group, united mostly by dislike of former PM Boyko Borissov and his GERB party.
The coalition will focus on reforming the country after GERB’s more than a decade-long dominance. “We Continue the Change” has reconfirmed its ambition to erase corruption, increase social security and business opportunities, cut the state administration by 30 per cent, revise the state budget, and introduce incentives to lure Bulgarians who went abroad to work back home.
In a bid to show off its transparency, “We Continue the Change” has livestreamed all its meetings in the first week of the discussions.
Softer tone likely with Skopje
The coalition is also expected to engage in improving frayed relations with North Macedonia following Bulgaria’s veto on the start of the latter’s EU membership talks, imposed by the previous cabinet. “The topic of Northern Macedonia is not a divisive red line in our discussions,” Petkov said.
This marked the first time Petkov has confirmed that a potential new government will take a more inclusive approach to North Macedonia, without surrendering Bulgaria’s previous complaints.
“We can’t ignore some factors – for example, that the Bulgarian minority in North Macedonia should have its rights protected,” Petkov told Bulgarian National Radio on September 26, before the general elections.
“We want to introduce a new approach to solving problems between Sofia and Skopje,” Petkov told North Macedonian outlet MIA on November 15.
According to unconfirmed reports, some interim ministers, such as Minister of Interior Boyko Rashkov and Minister of Education Nikolay Denkov, will remain in their positions.
Since last week, Kornelia Ninova, leader of the Socialist Party, has been dodging questions over reports that she will be a Deputy Prime Minister.
Democratic Bulgaria, heavily engaged with introducing judicial reforms, is expected to take over the Justice Ministry.
If the new government is formed as expected, it will end a long political stalemate in the country, preceded by a protest wave in 2020 that saw the downfall of long ruling GERB party, the increasing influence of recently re-elected President Rumen Radev and the emergence of new parties in parliament in 2021.
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