Bulgaria's GERB given a week to form government and end stalemate


FILE PHOTO: Bulgaria's President Rumen Radev attends the European Union leaders' summit in Brussels, Belgium October 20, 2022. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's largest political party, the centre-right GERB, was given seven days Monday to try to form a government to lead the country out of a prolonged political impasse amid high energy costs and looming economic slowdown.

Two months after winning the Balkan country's Oct. 2 snap election with 25.3% of the vote, GERB secured a further week from President Rumen Radev to cobble together a functioning cabinet in a hung parliament and avoid a fifth poll in less than two years.

The political crisis is weighing on Bulgaria's chances of joining the EU's passport-free Schengen travel area this year and on its plans to adopt the euro in 2024.

The GERB party of former long-serving prime minister Boyko Borissov proposed 51-year-old neurosurgeon Nikolay Gabrovski as prime minister-designate.

"I will make utmost efforts to propose a government that will be further from political talk and confrontation and closer to the expert and the professional (approach)," Gabrovski told Radev.

Political analysts are sceptical that GERB, which has 67 deputies in the 240-member parliament, can succeed. They say yet another election in March remains on the cards.

On Sunday, Borissov appealed to his rivals to agree on key priorities and push forward with Bulgaria's deeper integration into the EU.

The turmoil has put on hold much needed reforms to combat widespread corruption, draw up a budget plan for 2023 and tap billions of euros of EU recovery funds.

GERB's main rivals, the anti-graft parties We Continue the Change and Democratic Bulgaria, have ruled out support for a GERB-led cabinet, blaming Borissov for allowing corruption to fester during his decade-long rule that ended in 2021.

If GERB fails, two more attempts to form a government by the two other parties must be made. If they also fail, the president would have to call snap polls within two months.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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