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General Election - 05 October 2014

As expected, the minority Bulgarian government resigned 23 July 2014, following months of political agony. After months-long protests, there were early parliamentary elections. The trigger for this was not only the poor economic situation, but also the unrestrained distribution of government posts to incompetent partisans of the government. Such behavior threatens democracy, since the citizens lose confidence in the state, and populists therefore have an easy time.

According to polls the center-right opposition GERB (Citizens for a European development of Bulgaria) of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is expected to win the election. The Bulgarian government resigned against the background of the banking crisis which exposed the murky connections between bankers, politicians and the media.

Parliamentary elections were held on 05 October 2014, with exit polls indicating the the centre-right opposition GERB had received 33-34% of the votes, though still well short of a majority, and ahead of the Socialists who themselves were projected to have received about 16%. The early National Assembly elections were an attempt to overcome the political crisis that struck Bulgaria in the winter of 2013. Along with domestic problems, other leading campaign issues were Bulgarias further integration into Europe and its relations with Russia. Bulgarian President Rosen Plevnelievs negative attitude towards Kremlin politics was one of the key arguments during the political struggle in the parliamentary elections.

Boiko Borissov, leader of GERB, the largest party in Bulgarias new Parliament, and the leaders of the center-right Reformist Bloc signed a coalition cabinet deal at a ceremony in the National Assembly building on 06 November 2014. In the 240-seat Parliament, GERB had 84 MPs, the Reformist Bloc 23, the nationalist Patriotic Front 19 and socialist breakaway ABC 11 all four formations of the coalition, had 137 MPs.

In spite of Bulgaria's new center-right government, the new prime minister's chances of overcoming mismanagement, corruption and resignation were not good. Borisov's task was far more difficult than it was in 2009. His country was in economic ruin, and support for his minority government was uncertain. Cooperation between the right, left and nationalist parties has more to do with shared dread at new elections than similar politics. The two major coalition members spoke only generally of "raising prosperity" - or, rather unrealistically, of "sustainably increasing incomes" - while the nationalists hope to introduce compulsory voting.

The criminal code had been the subject of recurrent attempts at reform by successive governments over thefive years since 2010, an objective which had so far been elusive. In 2015 the government launched a new reflection process on a broader criminal policy reform. These reflections aim at a comprehensive reform, which would require careful analysis and preparation, involving broad consultation within the judiciary and legal professions.

The new government planned to change the electoral law to put an end to vote-buying. It also planned to make media ownership more transparent. Other ambitious goals included a closer relationship with the European Union and NATO and plans to reduce energy and defense dependence on Russia. But Inter-party conflicts were inevitable. GERB's coalition partner, ABW, negotiated an option into its coalition contract to vote against the government. This would force Borisov to seek shifting majorities and will likely result in an unbalanced government.

All the "difficult" ministries - justice, economy, health and social affairs - will not be held by members of his own party. If these departments need to enact painful reforms, Borisov would have ready scapegoats.

The January 2015 EU Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM) report described progress over the previous year as slow, and the Council conclusions called upon Bulgaria to "consolidate its political resolve to bring about reforms and make tangible progress"3. But the report also noted a number of areas where problems had been acknowledged and where solutions were starting to be identified. This resulted in two comprehensive reform strategies being launched, focusing on judicial reform and the fight against corruption.

Bulgaria's Justice Minister Hristo Ivanov resigned 09 December 2015 after parliament refused to back legislation meant to clean up the corrupt and inefficient judiciary. The EU had criticized Bulgaria over corruption and judicial reforms. Ivanov accused parliament on Wednesday of watering down judicial reforms he said would improve efficiency and clamp down on rampant corruption. Ivanov, whose Reformist Bloc was in a junior coalition partner with the conservative party of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, had wanted both the parliament and the prosecution service to appoint an equal number of members to the Supreme Judicial Council, the body responsible for legal appointments. He also wanted to bring accountability and reduce the power of the chief prosecutor.

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Page last modified: 10-11-2016 10:35:32 ZULU