Bulgarian foreign, energy ministers quit, deepening coalition crisis

Bulgarian foreign, energy ministers quit, deepening coalition crisis

Bulgaria’s foreign and energy ministers resigned on Monday after their party, the populist ITN, quit the governing coalition last week, compounding the Balkan country’s political crisis.

Prime Minister Kiril Petkov has said he will try to secure parliamentary support for a minority government. However, analysts say new elections in the autumn could be on the cards for the European Union’s poorest member state.

ITN left the shaky, four-party coalition six months after it was formed, citing disagreement over policies ranging from whether Bulgaria should unlock North Macedonia’s European Union accession talks to anti-corruption legislation in one of the EU’s most graft-ridden countries.

Foreign Minister Teodora Genchovska and Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov stepped down in a nod to the decision of ITN to leave. The two other ITN ministers, who oversaw regional development and sports, quit last week.

Petkov, unable to rely on any of the opposition parties for help, is counting on winning support from at least 12 defecting ITN lawmakers, hoping to avoid new elections amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and inflation running at a 14-year high.

Five ITN lawmakers and the sports minister said they would leave the anti-establishment party, which they said was hindering the government’s efforts to stop graft-prone deals. ITN’s leadership denied any wrongdoing.

Petkov’s centrist PP party welcomed their move.

“We hope other brave deputies to appear. When they do, we will move to propose changes in the government,” PP leader and deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev told reporters.

Political analysts said Petkov might still muster a razor-thin majority, but snap polls remained likely.

“We are yet to see if Petkov can win enough support in the parliament and under what conditions. Early elections remain on the table for now,” Daniel Smilov of the Sofia-based Centre for Liberal Strategies said.

The first test for Petkov will come with pending votes in the parliament on changes to the 2022 budget. [Reuters]

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