Bulgaria anti-graft party drops bid to form government, extending deadlock

FILE PHOTO: Kiril Petkov and Assen Vassilev, leaders of the centrist "We Continue The Change" (PP) party, speak to the media after the first exit polls during a general election, in Sofia, Bulgaria October 2, 2022. REUTERS/Spasiyana Sergieva/File Photo

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's second largest party, the anti-corruption We Continue the Change (PP), gave up plans on Friday to form a government after failing to win backing in the hung parliament, prolonging a political deadlock.

The Balkan country has been in political crisis since 2020, when thousands of Bulgarians took to the streets to protest against rampant high-level graft.

A snap election on Oct. 2, the fourth in less than two years, was inconclusive. After the centre-right GERB party of former long-serving premier Boyko Borissov failed to win support for a technocrat cabinet last month, PP also gave up on Friday, raising the prospect of another early vote in the spring.

In a 114-63 vote, lawmakers declined to approve a list of national priorities drafted by PP in an attempt to garner backing for a minority cabinet together with its junior partner, Democratic Bulgaria.

PP's key rival, Borissov's GERB, and the pro-Russian Revival party voted against, while three other political factions, including PP's former allies, the Socialists, abstained.

President Rumen Radev will now have to choose another political party and ask it to form a government. If that final attempt also failed, Radev would dissolve the parliament and call a snap poll within two months.

"We will be returning the mandate (to form a government) unfulfilled to the president on Monday," a PP spokesperson said.

Failure to form a regular government within the currently elected parliament could jeopardize Bulgaria's plans to join the euro zone in 2024. It would also delay much needed reforms to combat high-level graft and could hamper the efficient tapping of billions of euros in EU recovery funds.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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