On Monday came the surprising news that the leaderships of WCC-DB and GERB had managed to broker an agreement for a rotational cabinet. Exactly at 3 PM on Monday, GERB's nominee for prime minister Mariya Gabriel returned an empty folder with the unfulfilled first mandate to President Rumen Radev with the assurance that a government would be formed between her party and the WCC-DB coalition.
"We have a clear vision that the second mandate should be national, and an agreement that the two political parties should form a government," Ms Gabriel told the head of state, adding that the two forces can even muster a constitutional majority. The President, in turn, assured her that within the next few days he would hand the second mandate to WCC-DB's nominee for prime minister, Prof Nikolay Denkov.
Gabriel and Denkov's joint statement
Four hours earlier, Ms Gabriel and Mr Denkov gave a joint statement announcing the intention of the first and second political forces to form a government. They explained that an agreement had been reached between their factions, under which Gabriel and Nikolay Denkov would rotate in office for nine-month periods. Mr Denkov would take the prime minister's seat first, with Ms Gabriel as deputy prime minister and foreign minister. Once the nine-month period is up, Mr Denkov would give way to Ms Gabriel and become Deputy Prime Minister himself.
The WCC-DB nominee for PM justified the agreement by citing "the extremely difficult situation and the delay of important decisions related to the adoption of the budget and the provision of funds for salaries and pensions." He also recalled that at the beginning of the work of the National Assembly GERB and WCC-DB had united around a common legislative programme and had also discussed a governance programme.
"Since it is impossible to implement the first mandate, we proposed to GERB to step up on the composition for the WCC-DB government, which can be refined, given that we will have a deputy prime minister (Ms Gabriel - ed.) and then a prime minister on a rotating basis," Mr Denkov said. He also specified that Ms Gabriel's presence in the government could help realize the priorities for the country's accession to the Schengen and Euro areas.
Composition, structure and priorities
Mr Denkov also announced that changes in the composition and structure of the future government would be made only with the consent of both political forces and declared that if there were a deviation from the main priorities, he would resign. And the priorities he mentioned include: constitutional reform for changes in the prosecutor's office and the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), entry into the eurozone and Schengen, adopting a budget with as little as 3% deficit without tax increases. Mr Denkov also listed several others - changes to the electoral code and the return of the fully machine vote, renewal of members of regulatory bodies whose term has expired, and legislative changes related to "exempting the leadership of the security services from foreign influence."
For her part, Mariya Gabriel read out a declaration by the GERB parliamentary group, entitled Declaration on National Responsible Governance. It read that the second mandate would be national and used to elect a "stable government around which to form a constitutional majority". The document makes clear that the first political force is committed "to dialogue with all parliamentary groups to prepare and adopt constitutional amendments", including those related to changes in the structure of the prosecutor's office and the SJC, as well as to establish a mechanism for prior coordination between parliamentary groups on nominations for regulatory bodies.
Gabriel also thanked the other political forces with which GERB has been negotiating to gain support for a government under the first mandate - MRF, BSP and TISP.
How the deal was brokered
The agreement between GERB and WCC-DB to form a government with the second mandate was reached by late afternoon on Sunday, when it turned out that GERB's leader Boyko Borissov was holding talks with the leaders of the reformists in parallel to talks with the other three parliamentary parties. Until then, various GERB representatives had been telling the media that Ms Gabriel would return to the president an executed mandate with a cabinet structure and composition agreed with the MRF and TISP.
However, such a cabinet had no chance of being approved by parliament because the three parties had 116 MPs, insufficient to secure the minimum 121 votes for the cabinet to be elected. In the course of the negotiations for the formation of a government with the first mandate, the socialists of Kornelia Ninova decided not to support the draft composition of a cabinet elected with the mandate of GERB. Late on Sunday, Slavi Trifonov also withdrew his support for GERB's first mandate, which he had given a few days earlier.
Surprise for all
The compromise struck by the leadership of the two parties surprised many - including some of their own MPs and supporters. According to Capital weekly sources, the decision to back a cabinet with the participation of GERB - which contravenes the last decision of WCC's party congress - barely passed a vote of WCC's national council. Many hardcore supporters of Democratic Bulgaria, but also GERB, were unhappy with the decision of the two formerly extremely hostile factions to suddenly change course.
It is unclear how much the coalition can achieve in the prevailing atmosphere of uncertainty and mutual distrust, and until all names of the future ministers (and their deputies) are clear, the future of the cabinet is not 100% certain. But in any case the "rotation" of formerly bitter opponents, who had blamed each other for incompetence and corruption, could leave a bad taste - and open the possibility for further radicalization of Bulgarian politics. For example, Vazrazhdane leader Kostadin Kostadinov invited all voters who had lost faith in WCC-DB and GERB to back his party, "the only party that has not cheated on its voters" in the next elections.
Geshev spread rumors once againWhile the Gabriel-Denkov press conference was taking place, Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev made a nearly two-hour statement to journalists, alleging significant political meddling in the judiciary. Mr Geshev showed text messages exchanged with GERB's Boyko Borissov and then went on to blame him for sending an "emissary" requesting his "dignified exit" from the position of Prosecutor General. The said emissary appeared in a 35-minute recording as the member of the prosecutor's collegium Yordan Stoev - one of the signatories of the request for Geshev's removal. In it Mr Stoev conveyed to the prosecutor general messages about a 100 percent political guarantee for him and his family if he resigned. These emanated from "Bankyata," likely a nickname for Mr Borissov.
The conversation between the two also shows that neither has any doubt that the next Prosecutor General will be a political choice; that political expediency has forced a politician (likely - Mr Borissov) who has fallen from grace to seek Mr Geshev's resignation and that in exchange for "100% guarantees, Mr Geshev was at least in words willing to give up the post, but if he did not get them "he would fight and it would all get scary".