Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev said on January 28 that an early general election seems inevitable as democracy in the country “has been losing momentum”.
Speaking to journalists to mark his assessment of the first two years after taking office, Radev indicated that he would back a new political party, partially confirming speculations that have started several months ago that the president could launch his own political project.
Should Radev take this step, he would likely gain the support of many Bulgarians disappointed with the current government, as he is increasingly seen as the new “saviour of the nation”.
The current government formed by Boyko Borissov's Gerb party and the far-right United Patriots is increasingly divided by internal tensions, and a poor showing in the May European Parliament elections is seen as likely to lead to a snap election later in the year.
Radev said that an early election is “no longer a matter of if but when”, but also called for a revision of electoral legislation in order to guarantee fair and transparent elections.
Several months earlier Radev objected to calls by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), which backed his candidacy for president, for early elections, saying that it was not an option at the time, and urging the government to start doing its job.
Trust in Bulgaria’s parliament was at a critically low level of around 8%, according to latest polls. Moreover, Bulgarians have lost trust in the prosecution and all state institutions except the presidency.
Radev also pointed out that important laws were being changed through regulation, thus avoiding public discussion and impact assessment. Being a constant critic of Borissov's government, Radev has so far vetoed 12 laws, expressing concerns about their constitutionality or about possible room for corruption and breach of human rights. The parliament has overturned all but one of his vetoes so far.
“Legality is the alternative of arbitrariness and lobbyism. Validation of law is the first thing we need to do. To break the corruption, to gain back freedom of speech, because you see what happens to the critics of those in power; to return to citizens the feeling of security and justice. And all that begins with uncompromised application of law,” Radev said during the press conference which was broadcast live on Facebook.
Asked whether he would back a new political project, he said: “Yes, if it stands up for these values and works for Bulgaria’s modernisation.”
Radev also said that he would back a presidential republic if the next parliament forms a coalition that lacks principles purely to take power, saying that this would be “the last handing out the cards in the current political system”. However, he insisted that people should stop hoping for a miracle and start working to improve their lives.
Meanwhile, Radev also announced the establishment of a council for strategic development as part of his administration. The council will work to propose specific ideas and solutions to existing problems and will seek people’s support for their implementation.
The president said he could not work with Borissov and accused the government of concentrating power beyond what the constitution allows, destroying the balance of the authorities in the country.
Radev also called on the prosecution to start probing those in power, not only their opponents. The prosecution has been accused of persecuting only people opposing the ruling coalition. The most recent case concerned the charging of Elena Yoncheva, an investigative journalist and MP from the opposition BSP, for money laundering.
Yoncheva is was considered one of the main candidates to lead the list of BSP candidates for the May European Parliament election. As the BSP’s rating is virtually equal to that of the ruling Gerb party, the accusation was seen as a political move aimed at hitting the party and Yoncheva.
The journalist claims she has been targeted due to her investigations revealing corruption within the government and Gerb.