Socialists try to form new government in Bulgaria

May 23, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT
REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — The Socialists, who finished second in Bulgaria's election this month, were asked to form a new government Thursday, after the front-running party was unable to.

The Socialists have pledged to create a Cabinet of technocrats led by a former nonpartisan finance minister, Plamen Oresharski, and to quickly improve the economy of the country, which now has 14 percent unemployment.

About 22 percent of the population lives below the official poverty line in a country with 4.2 percent inflation and the lowest average wages in the European Union.

The previous government stepped down after many protests against it, some of which turned violent.

But forming a new government may not be easy for the Socialists, who won only 84 of parliament's 240 seats during the May 12 election. Even if, as promised, they form an alliance with the mainly Turkish MRF party, which won 36 seats, that wouldn't give the Socialists a majority.

The new Parliament is expected to vote next week on the Cabinet and prime minister that the Socialists propose.

When Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007, many citizens expected a better life, but that didn't happen, thanks in part to the fact that the global financial crisis began soon afterward.

On Thursday, President Rosen Plevneliev gave the Socialists the mandate, right after former Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said the 97 seats that his center-right GERB party had won in the election weren't enough for him to form a new government.

Borisov resigned as the country's leader in February amid sometimes violent protests against poverty and corruption. His popularity was further damaged by allegations of vote fraud and a wiretapping scandal.

On Wednesday, Borisov's party appealed the results of the parliamentary vote, claiming "gross violations of the campaign." But analysts said a ruling by the constitutional court could take months and was not likely to succeed.

Analysts also said that Bulgaria urgently needs a new government to draft next year's budget and to implement swift measures to revive the economy.