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Wrap-up: TISP Withdraws from Government-Forming Talks, Opposition GERB, MRF Urge President to Schedule Snap Elections

Just after the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) ended on Thursday the first round of consultations on forming a cabinet on the third (and last) mandate within the present Parliament, an unexpected turn of events on Friday prompted one of the four negotiating parties, There Is Such a People (TISP), to withdraw from the talks.
When it emerged that a meeting of the Democratic Bulgaria (DB) parliamentary group at the National Assembly had been livestreamed inadvertently, TISP leader Slavi Trifonov said his party would no longer participate in the government-forming talks.
TISP was dubbed a mafia to cast DB as “the innocent”, Trifonov said in a statement aired on 7/8 TV and Facebook on Friday evening.
It transpired earlier on Friday that a meeting of DB’s parliamentary group in the National Assembly was recorded because the cameras and microphones were accidentally left switched on. MPs of the opposition GERB party commented on the video in Facebook posts. 
TISP no longer has a place in these pointless, hypocritical talks. It will not form a government of hypocrites and will not support it, and will opt for elections instead, Trifonov said, asking whether he should be considered “a doormat” and an “excuse for the incompetence of some amateurs”. He accused his former coalition partners of lying shamelessly, brazenly and disgustingly, of having neither honour nor dignity. “No act is more democratic than elections because the people decide who is worthy of their trust. The people determine the rules of the game, that is what democracy is about and that is wonderful,” he said.
GERB urges early elections
GERB urged President Rumen Radev to issue a decree scheduling early parliamentary elections if the Bulgarian Socialist Party does not return the exploratory government-forming mandate with a prime minister designate by 5:00 pm on July 25, GERB told a news conference here on Friday.
Earlier in the day, BSP leader Korneliya Ninova indicated that she would keep the government-forming mandate for as long as it takes to elect a new chairperson of the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (EWRC). According to Ninova, the procedure for electing the head of the energy regulator may end on August 12 under the best-case scenario. Therefore, the four parliamentary groups involved in the negotiations considered proposing that the National Assembly start its summer recess on August 15 instead of August 1.
Ninova received the third mandate on July 18 after the coalition government of Prime Minister Kiril Petkov (Continue the Change) lost a no confidence vote on June 22. The vote went through after coalition partner There Is Such a People decided to pull its ministers from the Government. On July 8, the largest parliamentary group, Continue the Change, returned the first exploratory mandate unfulfilled after falling six MPs short of securing the necessary majority in Parliament. On July 14, the second-largest group, GERB-UDF, returned the second mandate as soon as receiving it from President Radev, without attempting to form a government.
On Friday, GERB-UDF floor leader Desislava Atanasova quoted the leaked recording from the DB parliamentary group’s meeting, according to which the mandate is purposefully being delayed. It’s unconstitutional for BSP leader Korneliya Ninova and DB co-leader Hristo Ivanov to say that elections should be held on October 16, which is why GERB is urging the President to issue a decree and schedule snap elections if the mandate is not returned by Monday, Atanasova said. 
Asked whether GERB will take any actions as a parliamentary group, Atanasova said that the oppositions have various means to counter wrong decisions made by the incumbents. She recalled that her party is not participating in ensuring the quorum necessary for the start of parliamentary sittings. According to Atanasova, the things may once again lead to the Constitutional Court being approached in response to the rules for the election of the head of the counter-corruption commission, adopted by Parliament earlier on Friday, as well as in response to the anti-corruption legislation which is yet to be put to the vote. 
It transpired from the leaked recording that if someone is turning the anti-corruption commission into a tool to attack opponents, then others want to take part in “this tool’s” work and control it during elections, Atanasova said, explaining that she is quoting Hristo Ivanov.  “We also heard that TISP have already acquired the status of tolerable members of the coalition, but now they’re trying to figure out how to tell them that they won’t be having any ministers, as well as [Hristo] Ivanov’s admission that DB are taking part in the talks for information purposes,” Atanasova said. She criticized Ivanov’s party, accusing them of having lied to people for over seven months that they want to tackle corruption, but instead have only taken part in discussions for informational purposes.  “For me it became clear from the leaked recording that the coalition partners are aware of their being part of turning into their own tool an institution that is supposed to fight conflicts of interest and corruption, and they want to be part of the mechanism that controls and uses this tool,” GERB deputy leader Daniel Mitov said. 
Another GERB deputy leader, Tomislav Donchev, said that the recording does not mention any concerns about the ideological differences between the parties or about the fight against corruption, which is apparently DB’s priority. “They’re not worried about whether there’s natural gas, how inflation should be tamed – the recording talks about money, a tool,” he added. “While you’re at the theatre, your homes are being robbed – this is what’s happening right now. We’re talking about a coalition that’s against the Bulgarian people,” Donchev said. 
DB’s reaction
DB co-leader Atanas Atanassov said he does not believe the recording was made by accident. According to him, Parliament’s recording system was not turned off, because the majority of the staff was appointed when GERB were in power. He told bTV that this makes him believe that this was not coincidental.  “GERB’s parliamentary group has been acting as a subversive group in recent days. How did you get this recording, how were we recorded in the National Assembly’s West Hall?” Atanassov asked.
DB co-leader Hristo Ivanov told reporters that the whole recording would be made public to stop others from using it for propaganda purposes by quoting excerpts out of context. He added that some people were making decisions based on those fragments. “If Slavi Trifonov decides that he must break everything for the fourth time and his parliamentary group acts accordingly, blind to the fact that it is in GERB’s and the MRF’s interest to see this happen, DB will go to elections,” said Ivanov. He was referring to Trifonov’s decisions which led to two snap elections in 2021 and to the withdrawal of his ministers from Kiril Petkov’s cabinet.
Movement for Rights and Freedoms calls talks on cabinet “farcical”
The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) said the recording of DB’s meeting was the latest proof that the talks on forming a cabinet on the Socialist Party’s mandate were farcical. DB were discussing how to play for time until August 15 so as to get control of the energy regulator and the counter-corruption commission, MRF leader Mustafa Karadyi said.
He urged Ninova to return the mandate promptly and called on President Rumen Radev to set a date for early elections on July 25.
Earlier on Friday, the MRF accused the BSP for Bulgaria parliamentary group of employing “Bolshevik tricks” to cling to power at all costs.
Mustafa Karadayi commented: “These are well-known Bolshevik gimmicks: when a government fails, it pulls the nation to the abyss because it does not care about the people but is desperately trying to keep its grip on power.”
The MRF leader recalled a similar situation at the time of former Socialist prime minister Zhan Videnov (in office 1995-1997), when the BSP’s Bolshevik slogan, in Karadayi’s interpretation, was: “It takes bloodshed to relinquish power”. “This is obviously what they are trying to do again. We must not deviate from the principles enshrined in the Constitution,” the MRF leader insisted.
The outgoing government is probably the worst one in the 32 years since the fall of Communism, perhaps even worse than that of Zhan Videnov, Karadayi said.