Bulgaria's coalition government lost a vote of confidence among MPs, bringing fresh political turmoil and the increased likelihood of an early general election.

Kiril Petkov, a pro-EU liberal, said it was an honour for him to lead the government, and promised to continue fighting for Bulgaria to be a
Kiril Petkov, a pro-EU liberal, said it was an honour for him to lead the government, and promised to continue fighting for Bulgaria to be a "normal" European state. (AFP Archive)

The Bulgarian government of Prime Minister Kiril Petkov has collapsed in a no-confidence vote in parliament, throwing the European Union country into political turmoil amid the Ukraine crisis and surging inflation.

Opposition lawmakers on Wednesday toppled the government — which took power six months ago — after the ruling coalition lost its majority over disputes on budget spending and whether Bulgaria should unlock North Macedonia's EU accession.

"This vote is only one small step in a very long way," Petkov said following the vote. "What they fail to understand is that this is not the way to win the Bulgarian people."

Petkov, a 42-year-old Harvard graduate who pledged to combat corruption, has taken a strong pro-European and pro-NATO position since Russia attacked Ukraine, an unusual stance for a country with a traditionally friendly attitude toward Moscow.

Analysts predict a new government would bring a more neutral policy toward Russia.

The country now faces possibly its fourth general election since April 2021, putting at risk millions of euros from EU recovery funds and its plans to adopt the euro in 2024.

But analysts say there is no guarantee that another national vote in this country of 6.5 million people.

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Uncertainty returns

The gridlock may also hinder Bulgaria's efforts to secure stable natural gas inflows after Moscow cut gas deliveries to the country, which is almost completely reliant on Russian gas, over Sofia's refusal to pay in roubles.

Petkov has rejected any coalition talks with opposition parties in the chamber, but will seek defections from lawmakers in the parliament to garner enough support for a new government and avoid early elections.

President Rumen Radev is required to call early elections within two months and appoint a caretaker administration should Petkov fail to cobble together a majority for a new cabinet and if two other parties in parliament cannot form a government.

Last November, the party of liberal Petkov came out ahead and went on to form an unwieldy coalition government with three other parties.

But cracks in the coalition began to appear soon after Russia launched its assault on Ukraine, and earlier this month the anti-establishment ITN party led by entertainer Slavi Trifonov withdrew its support.

Petkov's government faced a no-confidence motion by the opposition over "the failure of the government's economic and financial policy" as consumer inflation soared.

On Wednesday evening, 123 MPs in the 240-seat chamber voted in favour of the motion, two more than it needed to succeed, while 116 voted against. One MP missed the vote through illness.

Thousands of Bulgarians meanwhile took to the streets on Wednesday in a demonstration of support for Petkov's drive for reforms — which now looks doomed.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies