Bulgaria: Centrist party leader asked to form government

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgaria’s president on Saturday gave a mandate to form a new government to the prime minister-designate of a centrist party that won the country’s parliamentary election last month on promises to fight endemic corruption and carry out legal reforms.

Kiril Petkov, 41, leader of the newly formed We Continue the Change (PP) party, accepted the instruction a day after signing a reform-oriented coalition agreement with three other left-wing and center-right groups that won seats in the national legislature.

“You and the coalition partners have a responsibility to reform the vicious power model inherited from 12 years of authoritarian rule, to tackle corruption and lawlessness, the inequalities and poverty they create,” President Rumen Radev said, referring to the governance of Bulgaria’s three-time prime minister, Boyko Borissov.

The president urged the next government to focus on reforms in the judiciary, arguing that “the battle for the rule of law will be decisive for all other battles.”

The four-party coalition will control 134 seats in Bulgaria’s 240-seat parliament, which is set to vote Monday on approving the new government. Among the coalition government’s main tasks will be trying to steer the European Union member nation out of a twin health and economic crisis.

Petkov, the founder of a technology investment company, recalled Bulgaria’s months of anti-corruption protests last year and said the country was ready for change.

“It is time, after 32 years, that Bulgarians saw power-holders who care for them; it is time young Bulgarians abroad saw Bulgaria as a promising place to return to, and our parents saw Bulgaria as a place where they can have a worthy pension and live their old age with dignity,” he said.

The Balkan country of 7 million has one of the world’s fastest-shrinking populations, as well as the highest income inequality and the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the 27-nation EU.

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