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Bulgaria's centrist party launches coalition talks after surprise election win

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By Reuters
Bulgaria's centrist party launches coalition talks after surprise election win
Bulgaria's centrist party launches coalition talks after surprise election win   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

By Tsvetelia Tsolova

SOFIA -Bulgaria’s new centrist anti-graft party We Continue The Change (PP) will start talks to form a government on Tuesday after its surprise victory in Sunday’s national election, the party’s leader said.

With pledges to root out widespread corruption and bring prosperity to the European Union’s poorest country, PP, set up just two months ago, won the Balkan country’s third national election this year with 25.7% of the votes.

The party needs the support of two other anti-graft factions and the Socialist party to form a majority, but political analysts see its victory as a chance to break the stalemate that followed two inconclusive votes in April and July.

Anger against high-level corruption in April led to the ousting of the centre-right GERB party after more than a decade in power, but political wrangling among its opponents prevented them from forming a government even after a further vote in July.

“We plan to hold talks already today with the leaders of the other parties. We have much in common,” PP leader Kiril Petkov told private NOVA television.

Petkov, a 41-year-old business executive and former interim economy minister, was confident that this time GERB‘s opponents would put aside egos as the country, facing high energy costs and climbing COVID-19 cases, cannot afford further elections.

The Balkan country needs a functioning cabinet to tap billions of euros in EU aid, speed up growth and stay on track to adopt the euro currency in 2024 as planned, analysts say.

“Bulgaria’s credit outlook hinges to a significant degree on creation of a stable new government … For now, the signs are encouraging,” Levon Kameryan, lead analyst at Scope ratings agency said in a note.

Petkov was confident common ground with potential partners, the Socialists, the anti-graft faction Democratic Bulgaria and the anti-elite There Is Such a People party, can be found.

“We want to do much of the work before the formal voting for a coalition takes place,” he said, adding that part of the discussions will be streamed online to ensure transparency.

Petkov sees himself as the next prime minister and PP’s co-leader, Assen Vassilev as a finance minister, but said that a final decision on posts would be taken in the coalition talks.

The new coalition should find ways to replace the current chief prosecutor and the head of the anti-corruption agency to end a climate of impunity in Bulgaria, ranked as the EU’s most corrupt member state by Transparency International, he said.

“There should not be a thief in Bulgaria misusing public funds who can feel he cannot be punished,” Petkov said.