site.btaUPDATED President Radev Mandates PM Designate Assen Vassilev to Form Cabinet
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev on Friday handed Assen Vassilev, prime minister designate of the largest parliamentary group, Continue the Change, a mandate to form a cabinet.
Vassilev was accompanied at the ceremony by outgoing Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, former National Assembly Chair Nikola Minchev and Continue the Change Floor Leader Andrey Gyurov.
"I expect adequate solutions and standing up for the national interest to build a free, democratic, prosperous and European Bulgaria," Radev said, handing the exploratory mandate.
"Bulgarians are concerned with good reason about growing prices and increasing uncertainty, and the reforms and funding under the Recovery Plan have yet to come. As from yesterday, we are in an international crisis as well," the head of State said, apparently referring to the scandal over the expulsion of 70 Russian diplomatic officials from Bulgaria and Russia's threat to close down its mission in Bulgaria.
"Bulgarian citizens, society and institutions need security and predictability, a reliable protection of public interests, which implies above all responsibility and an effort to form a stable government to live up to Bulgarian citizens' expectations," Radev said.
"I see this as an enormous responsibility. We are all clear that it is crucial to have a cabinet in the crises that Bulgaria must tackle. It is crucial that this cabinet should work in the interest of citizens and not of the establishment and that it should really stand up for the Bulgarian interests and our country's independence," the prime minister designate added.
Emerging from a nearly hour-long private session with the President, Vassilev told journalists that Continue the Change will first seek political support for the new cabinet's programme and speak about a line-up. He noted the exceptional importance of this programme being implemented within six months.
The prime minister designate commented that the next cabinet will need 121 MPs to clearly back the programme when it is put to the plenary vote and who, as he put it, would "very clearly oppose the major business interests that they attempted to project through the previous government and that led to its collapse."
Gyurov said on National Television later on Friday that Continue the Change will start talks with its potential coalition partners on Saturday. The first to be invited to the negotiations will be BSP for Bulgaria, followed by Democratic Bulgaria. "The programme will then be presented to Parliament and all independent MPs who are ready to stand on the right side of history," Gyurov.
The line-up of the new cabinet has not been discussed at this stage, he specified.
While the mandate was being handed, a protest was staged in front of the Administration of the President against the continued presence in power of Continue the Change.
Continue the Change have one week to fulfil the mandate. If they fail, the second largest parliamentary group (GERB-UDF) will be given the task with the same time limit, but they have already said they will decline the mandate as soon as they receive it. The third and final mandate will then go to a third parliamentary group of the President's choice. If this week-long attempt fails, too, the head of State must appoint a caretaker cabinet, disband Parliament, and schedule early parliamentary elections within two months.
The cabinet-forming procedure was triggered by a vote of no confidence against the Petkov Cabinet on June 22, moved by the opposition GERB-UDF and backed by all parliamentary groups except Continue the Change and six breakaways from There Is Such a People.
Vassilev's Nomination and Petkov's Statement
Assen Vassilev's prime minister-designate nomination by his party was announced earlier on Friday in a video statement by outgoing Prime Minister Kiril Petkov.
"The only thing more dangerous to this country than elections at this point is the backstage players remaining in the government through proxies," Petkov said. That is why Continue the Change will not negotiate with Boyko Borisov, Delyan Peevski, Slavi Trifonov and Kostadin Kostadinov, as well as all with other national representatives who are not free to make their own decisions without the prior consent of the above-mentioned persons or their masters.
Petkov added that his party will propose a new Cabinet only if it is sure there are 121 MPs in the 47th National Assembly who will subscribe to and adopt as their own priority the eight goals of Continue the Change:
- Fight against corruption, passage of a law on a new anti-corruption commission vested with investigative powers, and election of outgoing Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov as its chair, as well as adoption of a new law on the protection of corruption whistleblowers;
- Amendments to the Judicial System Act to introduce a mechanism for accountability and investigation of the prosecutor general;
- Adoption of 22 legislative amendments envisaged in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which will give Bulgaria access to BGN 13 billion in grants from the EU;
- Amendments to the Public Procurement Act and conclusion of the agreement on the new package of EU Operational Programmes for the 2021-2027 period, worth BGN 3.7 billion;
- Completion of Bulgaria’s Strategic Plan for the EU Common Agricultural Policy (2023-2027);
- Energy diversification;
- Selection of independent and competent leadership complements of the Bulgarian National Bank, the Financial Supervision Commission, the Commission for Protection of Competition and other top regulatory bodies;
- Removing the Forestry Agency from the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Ministry and making it a stand-alone state agency which will also include the enterprises managing forestry resources.
Who is Assen Vassilev
Prime minister-designate Assen Vassilev, who is outgoing Deputy Prime Minister for EU Funds and outgoing Finance Minister, served as Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism in Marin Raykov's caretaker cabinet from March 13 to May 29, 2013 and as Minister of Finance in Stefan Yanev's first caretaker cabinet between May and September 2021.
Born in Haskovo, Southern Bulgaria, on September 9, 1977, Vassilev graduated in Economics from Harvard University, where he later majored in business administration and law.
He worked as consultant at Monitor Group in the US, Canada, Europe and South Africa from 1999 to 2004. Vassilev led marketing and strategic development projects for major international companies in telecommunications, energy, insurance, mining and a number of consumer goods industries.
Together with Petkov, Vassilev co-founded and headed the Center for Economic Strategy and Competitiveness at Sofia University. He taught in a Programme for Economic Growth and Development of the Center, affiliated with Sofia University and the Institute of Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School.
In September 2021, Vassilev and Petkov co-founded the Continue the Change Party, which won 25.67% of the votes in the November 14, 2021 early parliamentary elections, as a result of which it formed the largest parliamentary group in the incumbent National Assembly.