The Bulgarian government of “change” fell amidst contradictory interests

Geopolitics could be one reason among more for the fall of Kiril Petkov’s team

Bulgarian government fell on 22 June 2022 after no-confidence motion. The fall of Kirill Petkov government was accompanied by massive protests in support of what it had done or attempted: hitting some of the oligarchic vested interests in the energy, customs, transport and construction sectors.

Delyan Peevski, a big businessman and MP from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, an opposition party voted in by ethnic Turks, said immediately after the fall of the government that this would be the first step in the big fight against oligarchy. The conflict between Peevski and businessman Ivo Prokopiev is well known, a conflict that has led to anti-oligarchic protests before. Today Peevski’s colleagues were constantly talking about how the Petkov government is supported by Prokopiev.

Today’s events have also passed in the shadow of the so-called “French proposal/French europresidency’s proposal” to resolve the dispute between Bulgaria and North Macedonia. The proposal stipulates that Bulgaria should allow negotiations for EU accession with Macedonia to begin, and that Bulgarian demands related broadly to neutralising the ideology of Macedonism should be part of the negotiating framework, with the EU and Bulgaria guaranteeing their fulfilment over time.

On the eve of the vote former Prime Minister Boiko Borisov of the GERB party (a member of the European People’s Party) expressed his full support for the French proposal. It was Borisov who introduced the first Bulgarian “veto” for North Macedonia’s EU accession in 2020 and was ousted from government in 2021 after massive anti-corruption protests.

Seen as politically close to Victor Orban, Borisov ceded power to Petkov’s “technopopulist” option, who announced the anti-corruption agenda and the stop of state money and Euro-funds for the mafia/oligarchy. Petkov’s efforts to remove the chief prosecutor perceived as an obstacle to true anti-corruption were not successful. Petkov, however, took further action. Furthermore, during his term of office Russian gas’s export to Bulgaria was stopped.

The governing coalition united very different forces with conflicting geopolitical overtures.

At the time of her inauguration it was thought that this meant that changes after the Borisov era would be negotiated between the different elites. But it has been seen that change was going slow and more often than not is being hindered, including internally. In the end, the exit from government of a small, populist party perceived to be close to the economic interests of the Movement for Justice and Freedom triggered the current political crisis.

One hypothesis among several possible ones could be that the Bulgarian state may need to reset its governing formula as geopolitical balances in the region could change. Another hypothesis could be that the Bulgarian government has indeed hit vested interests in the economy and this has provoked reaction. However, it should be noted that opinion on the Petkov government has never been uniform and during its leadership there have been decisions or approaches that have raised questions at least for those unwilling to give it the time to learn the art of governance.

Despite the hype and excitement, my hypothesis is that geopolitical dynamics are worth studying in order to understand the internal political dynamics in Bulgaria as well.

This article is a Facebook post at Vladimir Mitev’s blog The Bridge of Friendship Facebook page.

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