After a heart-attack couple of weeks of scandals, twists and turns, the "rotational" cabinet of PM Nikolay Denkov from WCC-DB and his deputy, GERB's Mariya Gabriel, is bound to pass later today thanks to the votes of at least 132 MPs of the two largest blocks in the National Assembly.
The cabinet negotiations, which were threatened by the last-minute leaks of an internal discussion of WCC's National Council, were completed on Friday. The two future PMs have now disclosed the names of the ministers and these were presented to President Rumen Radev on Monday. Fears that the leaked tape would give GERB ammunition to demand more cabinet seats proved ungrounded. Most of the new faces are, in fact, compromise figures from previous cabinets or ex-nominees for ministers from unfulfilled GERB mandates.
In the meantime, parallel to the talks on the composition of the government, the negotiations for the formation of a constitutional majority, in which the MRF was also included, surprisingly began to turn into a major intrigue.
Who are the key ministers?
In the first 9 months, Prof Nikolay Denkov will act as Prime Minister. During this time Mariya Gabriel will be Deputy PM and Foreign Minister. Assen Vassilev will remain at the head of the finance ministry. Kalin Stoyanov, acting Director of the General Directorate for Combating Organised Crime (GDBOP), will be Minister of the Interior. He was appointed by Boyko Rashkov during Rumen Radev's first caretaker government and holds the post until today.
The other key institution of great importance in the current atmosphere of war - the Defense Ministry, will be headed by Todor Tagarev, who used to be a caretaker Defense minister in Marin Raykov's cabinet (2013). In 2016-2017 he headed the Institute of Defence at the Ministry. He was nominated for the same post during the Petkov cabinet after the dismissal of Stefan Yanev, but then met fierce resistance from the BSP. Tagarev has also been at odds with President Rumen Radev for years. Many senior officers dislike him because he was one of the main architects of the radical reforms under Ivan Kostov that eventually led to the structuring of the army according to NATO standards and the subsequent entry into the alliance.
Some of the other new ministerial names include Rumen Radev, who will be Minister of Energy. He is deputy chairman of the Association of Industrial Capital in Bulgaria (AICB). Andrei Tsekov, who is a lawyer, member of the board of directors and the supervisory board of the Chamber of Builders in Bulgaria and WCC deputee, will take over as Minister of Regional Development and Public Works. Last, but not least, the cornerstone judicial reform will be in the hands of Atanas Slavov from Democratic Bulgaria, who will head the Minister of Justice. He took over the nomination from ex-judge Emil Dechev, who is currently Deputy Minister of Justice and was nominated for the post, but faced heavy resistance from GERB MPs.
A Constitutional majority to look out for
As the final touches of the cabinet were being drawn, another notable negotiation took place - this time involving the leadership of MRF and, most notably, the notorious representative of the faction Delyan Peevski. The discussion was about the planned changes to the Constitution in the parts linked to the judiciary, which require at least 160 MPs to pass, but the presence of the MRF and Mr Peevski - which had long been targeted by WCC-DB politicians as the main culprits of the capture of the magistrature - raised many eyebrows.
First, the leaders of WCC-DB met with the chairman of the MRF Mustafa Karadayi and then the talks moved to the office of the rotating president of the National Assembly Rossen Zhelyazkov, where, alongside Mr Denkov and Ms Gabrie, Mr Peevski surprisingly joined. After the first conversation, Democratic Bulgaria co-chairman Hristo Ivanov, who is tasked by the reformist coalition to lead the negotiations on changes to the constitution, explained that it does not matter with whom the constitutional reform is negotiated if it is properly implemented.
Mr Karadayi confirmed that WCC-DB had approached MRF for talks concerning the constitutional changes alone, but added that the movement "will not intervene in the formation of the government." Two days earlier, he called the planned GERB and WCC-DB cabinet a "vicious wedding," threatening the two factions with "civil riots" if they formed a government.
What's next for the new cabinet?
Prof Denkov managed to deliver his successfully mandate to President Radev on Monday. This passed off without last week's acrimony which saw the head of state demand the WCC-DB nominee abandon fulfilling the mandate because it was "discredited."
After the end of the short ceremony, Prof Denkov said it was very important to make a "smooth and calm" transition of power. The candidate for rotating prime minister also outlined the urgent tasks ahead of the new government.
The first is related to the Recovery and Sustainability Plan and the need to urgently adopt legislative changes related to it. Secondly, Prof Denkov said that the new cabinet would hastily have to deal with the budget crisis. "We need to see as quickly as possible how the budget for this year can be prepared. It must be withdrawn and a new one made as soon as possible without this absurd deficit. It must reflect the current situation because we are now working on a budget that was already adopted under the previous regular government of Assen Vassilev in a different situation, under different circumstances."
Regarding the change of the directors of the security services, the PM-designate claimed that what was said in the leaked WCC discussions had been misinterpreted. "The [security] services are supposed to serve the country and that is the reason why the whole idea of changing their leadership is to have distributed responsibility. They should not only be selected by the Council of Ministers but also by the President. This construct works well until caretaker governments become the norm. Because it turns out that the whole separation of powers no longer exists. The heads of the services are currently elected by a single person and that is President Radev during the caretaker governments," Prof Denkov said. In his words, the executive should work in sync with the services. This position reiterated the declaration he and Ms Gabriel made on Friday, where they announced that every capable civil servant would be allowed to work unobstructed.
Despite the mostly optimistic noises from leaders of GERB and WCC-DB, the future coalition - and especially the involvement of the MRF in the planned constitutional changes - reaction has been lukewarm in some quarters. The last time a reformist coalition - the now-defunct Reformist Block - tried to pass a judicial reform alongside GERB, the party of Boyko Borissov - aided by its smaller satellites and MRF - distorted its essence. This led to the disbanding of the Block and the thwarting of the reformist impetus for almost half a decade.