Bulgaria's centre-right government submitted its resignation on Wednesday, setting the stage for early elections in the country.
By Svetla Dimitrova for Southeast European Times in Sofia -- 21/02/13
Boyko Borisov (right) leaves parliament on February 20th after resigning. [AFP]
Former Bulgaria Prime Minister Ivan Kostov is criticising Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's resignation, saying that the leader of the ruling centre-right party GERB shouldn't quit when a number of key issues, including widespread poverty and high utility bills needed to be resolved.
"Borisov simply handed the rule of the country to BSP [the Bulgarian Socialist Party] and the MRF [Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms]," said Kostov, the head of the right-wing party Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria.
"You are acting as a driver demonstratively throwing out the engine key and abandoning a crashed car. GERB's rule was not a right-wing rule; it was a forgery. Borisov's attempt to pass the responsibility to the MRF will not hold water."
Borisov resigned on Wednesday (February 20th) following 10 days of nationwide protests, some of which turned violent.
Lawmakers in the Balkan nation's 240-seat unicameral parliament voted 209-5 on Thursday to accept the government's resignation.
MRF leader Lyutvi Mestan suggested that politicians waste no time and move ahead with the formation of an interim cabinet. He recommended that early elections be held on April 28th.
"It is critical that the resignation be coupled with a clear assurance that not only GERB, but no other political force will attempt to form a government within the mandate of the 41st National Assembly," he told parliament.
Protests this month focused on high electricity prices and complaints against power distribution companies. The market is divided among three companies -- the Czech Republic's CEZ in the west, Energo-Pro in the northeast and Austria's EVN, serving southeast Bulgaria.
Eventually, the rallies turned into anti-government protests, with demonstrators accusing all parties that have ruled the country over the past 23 years for continuing poverty.
Borisov announced a series of measures on Tuesday, including a possible 8 percent reduction of power tariffs as of next month. He also said that the country would move towards the withdrawal of CEZ's licence, citing numerous alleged violations of the company's permit to operate in Bulgaria.
But after protests in Sofia turned violent Tuesday night, with 25 arrests and at least 14 injured in clashes with police, Borisov instead submitted his resignation on Wednesday -- less than five months ahead of regular parliamentary elections that were due to take place in July.
Some experts said that government's resignation would have minimal impact on Bulgaria’s economy as investors were already uncertain of the results of the July election.
"Naturally, any political instability creates a feeling of increased risk for doing business and for long-term investment plans in particular," Luchezar Bogdanov, an analyst with Sofia-based Industry Watch consulting company, told SETimes. "But we must not forget that there was an escalation of tension in recent weeks, on the one hand. On the other, we saw various political ideas being suggested that looked scary anyway, particularly if they were to be accepted -- economic populism had started spreading already."
The next step will be led by President Rossen Plevneliev, who could offer another party reprsented in parliament control of the government until the July election. If that is unsuccessful, he would organise a caretaker government tasked with planning a special election.
According to Antoniy Galabov, professor of political sociology and culture in the department of political sciences at New Bulgarian University in Sofia, the government's resignation "was not a good move [for the country]."
"We are probably moving towards a caretaker government appointed by the president, which should organise the next elections," he told SETimes, fearing that things in the country would "come to a standstill."
"In such circumstances, the state administration usually prefers to take no action, which is just the opposite of what is needed right now, which is maximum acceleration of the reform process," Galabov said.