Late Sunday night, Kirill Petkov appeared on Bulgarian television and clarified: “We will talk to all parties except GERB (the party of former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov) and the DPS (the party of the Turkish minority) to form a coalition government “. But who is Kirill Petkov? Just a few months ago, the 41-year-old economist, a graduate of Vancouver University and an MBA holder from Harvard, co-founded the “We Keep Changing” party with his colleague Assen Vassilev, also a Harvard graduate. In Sunday’s elections, this party made the big surprise and won the first place. It will certainly have the first say in forming a government.
“Our natural allies are the Democratic Bulgaria, the Socialist Party BSP and the ‘There is such a people’ party, as their basic principles coincide with ours,” Petkov said. “We all want to fight corruption and change the attorney general to a first step in restoring justice.” The two “Harvard boys”, as Bulgarians now call themselves Petkov and Vasilev, had made their debut in Bulgaria’s political scene after the April parliamentary elections, participating in the caretaker government that had been formed until a qualified parliamentary majority emerged. However, this did not happen either in April or after new elections in July. The country went to the polls for the third time in November, with Petkov and Vassilev present, having merged the older pro-European Volt parties and the European Middle Class into a new political party called We Continue Change.
Third … winner in seven months
Ahead of Sunday’s election, Sofia-based Vesella Chernieva, head of the Sofia-based European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), told DW that the young technocrats “are politically indestructible, they radiate energy and they look courageous”. Until the last minute, however, all polls put them in second place, with former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s GERB party first. Borisov’s party also emerged first in the April elections, but failed to form a government. In the new elections called for July, the populist party “There is such a people” emerged as the first political force, but it also failed to secure the necessary parliamentary majority. So we got to the November election, the third in a few months. Once again, voters blocked the way for Borisov to return to power, but again did not show a clear parliamentary majority.
In order to form a government, the new “We Continue Change” party will now need the support of three other parties. Vesela Chernieva believes that this is possible until Christmas. “This coalition government may be somewhat heterogeneous, but on the main issues – corruption, justice, budget, pandemic management – the positions of the four parties are so different,” he said. The problem, however, is that both the “We Continue the Change” party and the populist “There is such a people” do not have a stable structure and organization. “They now have to set up party organizations across the country and at the same time implement their government program, all of which are difficult to do at the same time,” Chernieva said. On the contrary, the GERB of the former Prime Minister Borisov, but also the socialist DPS have been established at national and regional level, they have many connections in the field of economy and “from all this they draw political capital”.
The Far Right is in Parliament
The euphoria that prevails over the attempt at renewal in the Bulgarian political scene does not hide the concern about some worrying developments. The turnout at the polls marked a new negative record, as it did not even reach 40%. “There is a sense of exhaustion and indifference in the electorate, which favors fascist tendencies,” Parvan Simeonov, director of the Gallup International Balkans polling company, told DW. As it turned out he was right. The supranationalist extremist party “Renaissance” has, according to the six polls, around 5% of the vote. “Of course the entry of nationalists into Parliament is unpleasant, but let us not forget that their percentages are low compared to what is happening in the rest of Europe,” Vesela Chernieva told DW.
Radev “stumbles” on the road to the presidency
In parallel with the parliamentary elections in Bulgaria, presidential elections were held on Sunday. As expected, the current incumbent Rumen Radev emerged first, but ultimately failed to gather the absolute majority provided by the Constitution, remaining at 49%. His opponent in the second round will be the “elite” of the GERB party Anastas Gertzikov, rector of Sofia University. Parvan Simeonov from the Gallup Institute believes that Radev has a serious chance of being re-elected in the second round, but his victory can not be taken for granted. “Everything depends on the support of parties such as the Socialists, the Democratic Bulgaria, the Turkish minority party and the ‘There is such a People’ party. “If they all decide to support Gerdzhikov, things will become more difficult for Radev.” The second round of the presidential elections will take place on November 21. It will be the fifth electoral contest in Bulgaria in 2021.