Bulgarian PM accuses Russia of defecting from junior coalition partner
Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov lost a no-confidence vote in parliament on Wednesday, after a junior partner from his tenuous ruling coalition joined the opposition. The Harvard graduate and former Canadian citizen denounced his critics as Russian agents beholden to organized crime and vowed to continue fighting to make Bulgaria a “normal European country”.
Of the 239 members of Sofia’s parliament, 123 voted to oust Petkov in what Bulgarian state media described as the first successful no-confidence vote in the country’s modern history. Only 116 supported the Prime Minister, with no abstentions.
After the vote, Petkov accused the main opposition party, Revival, of being an intermediary for “Russian interests” and said it had been his honor to lead a government that sought to root out corruption and organized crime.
“We will continue to fight so that one day we can have a mafia-free Bulgaria, a normal successful European country,” Petkov said in his farewell remarks.
President Rumen Radev now has three attempts to get a new government appointed. If all fail, he is expected to dissolve parliament and call new general elections – the fourth since April 2021.
“This parliament has brought only shame and disgrace to Bulgarian democracy. The sooner he is dispatched in history, the better it will be for Bulgaria. Renewal leader Kostadin Kostadinov told state radio. Opposition GERB party deputy leader Daniel Mitov says Petkov’s attempt to blame Russia was just the ousted prime minister “looking for an alibi” for his loss.
The no-confidence vote was technically prompted when the ITN party led by former TV personality Slavi Trifonov defected from Petkov’s ruling coalition due to budget concerns and the government’s desire to support the candidacy of the North Macedonia neighbor to EU membership. The break also came amid growing economic difficulties, with Petkov’s anti-Russian stance leading to Bulgaria cutting off 90% of its natural gas supplies.
Petkov, 42, sacked Defense Minister Stefan Yanev in February, accusing him of promoting “Russian Tales” after describing the conflict in Ukraine as “Military Operation” and not a war. His government has also pledged to repair Ukrainian military equipment and support a greater NATO presence in the east.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had publicly thanked Petkov earlier on Wednesday for a “ready to support granting our country the status of candidate for EU membership.”
Petkov holds a degree in finance from the University of British Columbia and an MBA from Harvard. He claimed to have renounced his Canadian citizenship in April 2021 to become economy minister in the previous cabinet, but ended up being disqualified when it emerged the procedure had not been finalized until August. He founded the We Continue the Change (PP) party with his Harvard classmate Asen Vasilev in September 2021 and became prime minister in December, with the support of 134 MPs and 104 opponents.