Market Report: Bulgaria

From the March 2017 issue.

While busy dealing with the unexpectedly harsh fall-out of the country’s Presidential Election in November, Bulgaria also has to tip toe around the seething conflict between Russia and the West. Can it have its cake and eat it, too?

The United States is not the only nation perplexed by the outcome of a Presidential Election. In mid-November, Europe’s 16th-largest country, Bulgaria, also went to the ballot box, with the result causing just as much political confusion as Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton. However, it wasn’t the winning candidate, ex-NATO General, Rumen Radev, who stirred up the Balkan country – even though he, too, had attracted a vast anti-establishment vote. It’s what happened next.

Radev’s landslide defeat triggered Prime Minister Boiko Borisov’s resignation in adherence to a promise he had made on the election campaign. At a press conference made on the election night, Borisov said his centre-right ruling coalition had apparently lost public support and thus could no longer stay in power and “carry out reforms”. Bulgarian lawmakers accepted the Prime Minister’s resignation after some debate on 16 November, in turn creating a power vacuum mid-way through the cabinet’s four-year term that will leave many an important infrastructure and reform project on hold.

“The Prime Minister’s decision to resign has the potential to plunge Bulgaria into a political crisis to that could last until the spring of 2017,” says Brussels-based political journalist*, Kamen Kraev. “In all likelihood Bulgaria’s outgoing President will need to appoint a caretaker government [as] Bulgaria’s Constitution does not allow an outgoing President to dismiss the country’s parliament during the last months of his term. That can only be done by the new President, who will step in on 22 January. A new parliamentary election could then be scheduled for April.”

According to Kraev, the Bulgarian President is a largely symbolic figure, but has some key prerogatives – including exercising veto power over the parliament’s legislature and supreme command over the armed forces. Radev, he says, doesn’t seem a natural fit for the role: “He has earned Bulgarians’ support at the ballot, but has little experience in the county’s murky politics. [As a result,] Bulgaria is headed for a period of political uncertainty at a time when stability is most needed.”

 

Image: dinozzaver / Shutterstock.com

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