Bulgaria's PM-designate announces graft-fighting govt

Sofia (AFP) – Bulgaria's PM-designate Kiril Petkov, whose new anti-graft party won general elections last month, said on Saturday he hoped to take office on Monday as the head of a four-party coalition, ending months of political deadlock in the poorest EU country.


Announcing his cabinet, Harvard graduate and former entrepreneur Petkov, 41, said he would "not lose a minute" in getting his cabinet approved by parliament.

"I hope that as soon as Monday, this government will become a reality and will remain so over the next four years," Petkov said as he unveiled ministerial picks that included many younger professionals with overseas experience or from business circles.

Two elections in April and July returned fractured parliaments that failed to form a cabinet.

Disillusioned voters backed Petkov's newly founded anti-graft party We Continue the Change (PP) on a third vote on November 14, lured by its platform for "zero tolerance for corruption".

The new government will end ten years of dominance by the centre-right GERB party of "tough guy" ex-Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.

A burly former fireman and bodyguard with a karate black belt, he had faced massive anti-corruption protests in 2020.

Petkov and another Harvard graduate and former entrepreneur, 44-year-old Assen Vassilev, have won praise for their decisive actions as interim ministers of economy and finance to restore transparency in spending taxpayers' money and eradicate corruption.

And voters rewarded their decision to co-found the PP in September as analysts welcomed what they called a new more transparent and consensus-based political style.

- 'Bringer of hope' -

The two managed to strike late on Friday a difficult 140-page coalition deal with four diametrically opposed partners -- the Socialist BSP party, the anti-establishment ITN formation of showman Slavi Trifonov, and the right-wing DB coalition, ensuring a majority of 134 lawmakers in the 240-seat parliament.

Observers welcomed the deal, which will see ministers from all four political formations, with many clashing views.

"We have already announced the tasks and policies in the coalition agreement itself, we will expect the ministers to be efficient.... The stability of the coalition government will be a function of how well each of these ministers is doing their job," the affable Petkov told journalists on Saturday.

"The project of Kiril Petkov -- a bringer of hope for Bulgarians -- arrives at a good moment as no party has an interest in new elections," analyst Dimitar Ganev said.

Petkov, a father of three girls nicknamed John Travolta for his resemblance to the actor, enjoys a personal popularity rate of 48 percent, a Gallup poll showed.

He likes to walk to work and talk to people in the streets.

'Young positive faces'

Many people turned out on Saturday to greet him as he left the presidency after being officially tasked by President Rumen Radev with forming a government.

Cultural anthropology professor Ivaylo Dichev also praised "the young and positive faces" that would enter his cabinet in contrast with the "characteristic threatening expressions" of Bulgarian politicians before.

"It is your and your partners' responsibility to reform the vicious model of power established by years of authoritative rule, to overcome corruption, arbitrariness, inequalities and injustice," President Radev, a vehement critic of Borisov, said as he was presented with Petkov's cabinet list.

Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic and the new government has to be approved and sworn in by parliament, which is expected to do this at an extraordinary session on Monday.

Zero tolerance for corruption is the slogan of Petkov's coalition.

High on its priority list will be revamping the much criticised judiciary and establishing an accountability mechanism for the country's powerful chief prosecutor, accused by protesters of shielding high-ranking corruption.

Handling a health sector crisis caused by the onslaught of the coronavirus and fed by low vaccination rates of just 26 percent, as well as reining in electricity price hikes were two other priorities outlined by Petkov on Saturday.