“Marriage of convenience” among the pro-Western camps in Bulgaria: Two prime ministers are to take turns at the head of the new government. The alliance has domestic political construction sites. In addition, it is likely to give more support to Ukraine.
EU and NATO member Bulgaria has now got a pro-Western government after months of political crisis. After the fifth parliamentary election in two years, the People’s Assembly confirmed a regular government. This replaces the transitional cabinet that President Rumen Radev installed before the new elections on April 2nd. With the new government, observers expect the south-eastern EU country to join its western allies more consistently in their support for Ukraine.
The 60-year-old physical chemist Nikolaj Denkow (PP) was elected prime minister with a majority of 132 MPs from among the winners, GERB-SDS, and the second-placed bloc, PP-DB. The government itself was confirmed with 131 votes. The pro-Russian Socialists, the pro-Russian and nationalist party Vasrashdane (Rebirth) and the dissident ITN are in opposition.
The new government is making history in the Balkan country with a novelty that has enabled a compromise between the rival camps: the post of prime minister is to change after nine months. After Denkow, ex-EU Commissioner Maria Gabriel (GERB) will be next in line as head of government. Until then, the 44-year-old is Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. She is the only representative of GERB-SDS in this government. There is no coalition agreement, only a “gentlemen’s agreement”, as both sides often emphasize.
The most important construction sites of the new government
The newly elected Denkow outlined his government’s most important areas: the fight against corruption and judicial reform, as well as Bulgaria’s accession to the border-free Schengen area and the euro zone. Finance minister before the introduction of the euro, which is planned for 2025, is the PP co-chair Assen Wassilew, who had already headed this department in the government that fell in 2022.
The new defense minister, Todor Tagarev, is considered a staunch Atlanticist and a “political hawk”. As soon as he took office, Tagarev said that Bulgaria must help Ukraine so that it could continue its counter-offensive and liberate the territories occupied by Russia. With him, observers expect more consistent support for Ukraine – in Bulgaria, for example, Ukraine’s urgently needed ammunition is being manufactured. A conflict between the new government and head of state Radew seems to be inevitable: the former fighter jet pilot and head of the Air Force is considered pro-Russian and criticizes the pro-Ukrainian parties in the country as “warmongers.”
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen congratulated Prime Minister Denkow and his deputy Gabriel on their election. Von der Leyen wrote on Twitter that she was happy to work with them on the common EU agenda for a “strong Bulgaria in a strong Europe”.
The new government alliance in Sofia is polarizing among Bulgarians. After mutual allegations of corruption, both camps had sworn never to form a coalition. “All negotiators in the government talks must be commended,” said social researcher Haralan Aleksandrov on the formation of a regular government. But critics call the alliance of the two archenemies a “marriage of convenience,” “shame,” and “government of the US embassy.” The votes in parliament were accompanied by protests.
With their alliance, GERB-SDS and PP-DB wanted to limit the influence of head of state Radev on Bulgarian politics. They themselves limited the term of office of the new government to initially 18 months. But even this comparatively short reign is something that some are already having doubts about. “This government will not last long,” predicted the pro-Russian Vasraschdane leader Kostadin Kostadinow. In the event of a sixth parliamentary election in quick succession, sociologists predict an even better election result for what is now the third strongest party. However, this option seems to be off the table for the time being.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.