Bulgarian reformists in long-shot bid to form government

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 13, 2016 8:38 AM

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's small right-wing Reformist Bloc on Tuesday launched an against-the-odds bid to form a new government and avert a snap parliamentary election, despite controlling less than 10 percent of the seats in parliament.

An early election looks increasingly likely after Russia-friendly candidate Rumen Radev, backed by the opposition Socialists, won last month's presidential election, prompting centre-right prime minister Boiko Borisov to resign.

The political direction of the NATO and EU member state is of interest to both the West and Moscow, which is keen to win friends and influence in the region as it presses for relief from international sanctions over its annexation of Crimea.

The Reformists, junior partner in Borisov's government, accepted a presidential mandate on Tuesday to try to form a new administration after Borisov's GERB and the Socialists both refused, in anticipation of an election next spring.

The bloc, with just 22 seats in the 240-member parliament, said it would try to convince Borisov, whose party has 84, to support it.

"We think we can move forward with our partners from GERB. We do not think that the next parliament will be better, or the formation of a government easier," Reformist Bloc official Rumen Hristov told reporters.

Analysts say a Reformist-led government is highly unlikely, and the move is most likely aimed at winning more time for the outgoing cabinet.

"It is absurd to cling to power in this situation," said Parvan Simeonov, an analyst with Gallup International in Sofia. "Perhaps they are trying to win some time but actually they are losing their future. Chances of forming a government are very slim."

The Reformists now have seven days to form a government or return the mandate to the president, who will have to appoint an interim government if their attempt fails.

In that scenario, President-elect Radev, who takes office on Jan. 22, is expected to bring forward the next election, scheduled for 2018, and call a vote for March or April.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova and Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)