The winning parties in November’s elections, led by newcomer ‘We Continue the Change’, have officially taken power, with new PM Kiril Petkov pledging that Bulgaria will ‘be in a different place’ in four years’ time.
The leader of ‘We continue the change’, Kiril Petkov greets fans before the first session of the parliament in Sofia, December 3, 2021. Photo: EPA-EFE/VASSIL DONEV
Bulgaria’s parliament has given its backing to a new ruling coalition, formed after the November elections by the winners, “We Continue the Change”, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, “There’s Such People” and Democratic Bulgaria. Of 240 MPs, 238 registered to vote, 134 voted for the new coalition, 104 against and none abstained.
The vote put an end to an almost year-long political logjam in Bulgaria, which now sees its biggest political shift in more than a decade.
The country held three general and two presidential elections in 2021, which saw longtime ruling GERB party and its leader Boyko Borissov lose their grip amid protests and increasing corruption claims, President Rumen Radev increasing his profile and new opposition parties becoming dominant in parliament, isolating GERB and its allies, the United Democratic Forces and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.
“Believe me: there will be a zero tolerance for corruption and for every lev that goes in the wrong place,” new Prime Minister Kiril Petkov told parliament.
He emphasised increasing the vaccination process against COVID-19 in order to curb Bulgaria’s high death rate from the virus. This drew mixed reactions in the chamber, which houses members from the far-Right pandemic denialist “Revival” party. Petkov finished his speech with a promise that, “In four years, Bulgaria will be a very different place.”
The vote was preceded by a 120-page agreement, signed by the parties on Friday. The coalition was due to be announced early last week but discussions continued after the Socialist Party insisted on revisions.
Petkov’s cabinet contains several new figures but also retains some of the interim ministers from President Rumen Radevs appointed caretaker government.
Who’s who in the new cabinet
Apart from Petkov becoming Prime Minister after serving as an interim Minister of Economy in 2021, and Assen Vasilev returning as Minister of Finance, after being in that post in the same cabinet, the other ministers remained unknown until Friday evening.
“We Continue the Change” will control several key ministries. Chairperson of the Bulgarian Pharmaceutical Union Asena Serbezova is the new Health Minister.
“Many things in the system are rigid and dogmatic and have no added value in the 21st century, especially in a country that supposedly wants modern healthcare,” Serbezova on Monday told the newspaper Capital Weekly.
Nickolay Sabev, owner of one of the major shipping companies in Bulgaria, will head the Ministry of Transport. Daniel Lorer, who has experience in IT and venture capital businesses and is also engaged with the Jewish community, will lead the new Ministry of Innovation and Growth.
Particular attention has been given to the new Minister of Culture, 31-year old Atanas Atanassov, a former tennis talent, who majored in theatre acting from Whitman College in the US before living in London and Berlin.
He is known for the international theatre festival he organises in the village of Tatarevo. His appointment drew mixed reactions in the arts and culture community as some are critical for his lack of professional experience in the fields. Others welcomed the change.
The ministries of foreign affairs, energy and sports will be led by little known representatives of “There’s Such People”, the winners of the July elections, which later lost societal trust after controversial decisions and disregard for parliamentary rules. None of the positions involve the two leaders of the party, the popular TV showman Slavi Trifonov and his longtime collaborator, Toshko Yordanov.
Bulgarian Socialist Party members have become ministers of some of the most important resource institutions: the ministries of agriculture, economy, tourism, labour and social policy.
Interim Minister of Education and Science since May Nickolay Denkov will remain in his position. “It’s all about whether the parties can work in a team; if we can do that, we can finish the four year mandate,” Denkov told bTV on Sunday evening.
Stefan Yanev, interim Prime Minister since spring, will again be part of the cabinet, as Minister of Defence, a position he held in 2017.
Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov, engaged with exposing the wrongdoings of former GERB governments and former PM Boyko Borissov, will keep his position.
Democratic Bulgaria has three ministers on the list: Justice Minister Nadezhda Yordanov, Borislav Sandov who will be in charge of Environment, and IT specialist and blogger Bozhidar Bozhanov, who will lead the new Ministry of Electronic Management.
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