ROTATING, ROTATING...

by Stamen Manolov

Bulgaria's ruling "fixture," as it calls itself in order to avoid the a lot more incendiary "coalition," "alliance" and, God forbid, "government," has been preoccupied with one thing. Itself.

nikolay denkov.jpg

When it was hammered out last year with the support of Boyko Borisov's GERB (whom everyone left, right and centre of Kiril Petkov, Asen Vasilev, Hristo Ivanov and Gen Atanas Atanasov swore was the godfather of all evils to befall Bulgaria in the past 10 years), it was made clear that the "fixture" would "rotate" every nine months. Nine months since its inception are supposed to end in March.

There was one small hitch at the time. Nowhere does Bulgaria's Constitution, which the "fixture" so ardently wanted to repair, make any provision for a "rotating government." There is no such thing as a rotating government in Bulgaria's basic law. A government gets elected and then either conducts its business as a government or is replaced with another government. If there is no other government capable of or willing to act like one, a new general election is to be called.

The PP-DB-GERB "fixture" found a way out of this as well. They decided the whole government – sorry, "fixture" – should resign at the end of the nine month period and a new one should be sworn in.

What the fathers of the "fixture" failed to take into account is that the longer someone – anyone – stays in power in a country like Bulgaria, the more difficult it becomes to disentangle them from the intricate relationships they have entered whilst being in power.

The case of Nikolay Denkov and his foreign minister, Maria Gabriel, illustrates the above sufficiently coherently. Gabriel, a former EU commissioner, who is thought of as a loyal Boyko Borisov flunky, is now foreign minister. If the rotation goes according to plan, she is supposed to become prime minister. But incumbent Prime Minister Denkov wants to be assured once he leaves his job he will become foreign minister himself. Boyko Borisov disagrees, claiming Maria Gabriel is perfectly capable of being both a prime and a foreign minister at the same time.

"The only thing we know for sure at the moment is that this government will resign on 6 March," says Nikolay Denkov.

In the meantime, the cafe crowds in Bulgaria were quick to think up a nickname for the academician-prime minister. Denkov is now referred to as the Knight of the Sad Countenance. It must be pointed out the original Spanish sounds a lot more evocative: El caballero de la trieste figura.

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