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Bulgarian government loses vote of no confidence, snap elections loom

A no-confidence vote on Wednesday toppled the Bulgarian government and Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, who pledged to fight corruption and took an unusually tough stance against Russia.

Opposition lawmakers toppled the government – which took power six months ago – by a vote of 123 to 116 after the ruling coalition lost its majority over budget spending disputes and whether Bulgaria should unblock North Macedonia’s EU membership.

They accused the government of failing to implement fiscal and economic policies to rein in soaring inflation in the European Union’s poorest member state.

Bulgaria may be facing its fourth general election since April 2021, putting millions of euros from EU recovery funds and its plans to adopt the euro in 2024 at risk.

“This vote is just one small step on a very long road,” Petkov said after the vote. “What they don’t understand is that this is not the way to win over the Bulgarian people.”

Petkov, a 42-year-old Harvard graduate who pledged to fight corruption, has taken a pro-European, pro-NATO stance since Russia invaded Ukraine, an unusual stance for a country traditionally friendly to Moscow.

Petkov fired his defense minister in February for refusing to call Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a ‘war’, backing EU sanctions against Moscow and agreeing to repair the country’s heavy military machinery. Ukraine while stopping before sending arms to Kyiv.

The resulting political stalemate could also hamper Bulgaria’s efforts to secure stable supplies of natural gas after Moscow cut off gas supplies to the country, which was almost entirely dependent on Russian gas, due to Sofia’s refusal. to pay in rubles.

Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev expressed hope that parliament would still vote to approve drafted budget changes to boost state pensions and support households as food and fuel prices rise.

Former coalition partner ITN quits government after accusing Petkov of disregarding Bulgaria’s interests by pushing to lift his veto on North Macedonia’s EU accession talks under pressure of its EU and NATO allies.

Petkov argued that any decision on the veto should be put to a vote in parliament. Earlier Wednesday, in a sudden shift, the main opposition GERB party said it would support lifting the veto, but political wrangling has prevented a debate on the issue.

Lawmakers will meet again on Thursday to discuss whether Sofia should unblock Skopje’s EU membership. Petkov will maintain Bulgaria’s veto power at the EU summit this week, unless parliament gives him a different mandate.

Petkov has rejected any coalition talks with opposition parties in the chamber, but will seek to defect lawmakers to garner enough support for a new government and avoid a snap election.

President Rumen Radev is required to call elections within two months and appoint an interim administration if Petkov fails to muster a majority for a new cabinet and if two other parties in parliament cannot form a government.

The motion against the ruling coalition was proposed by former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s GERB party, which stands to benefit from new polls alongside pro-Russian parties like the nationalist Revival in a society polarized by economic problems and the war in Ukraine.

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Post expires at 9:08pm on Sunday July 3rd, 2022