Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov's government collapsed on Wednesday in a no-confidence vote in parliament over its fiscal and economic policies, potentially setting the stage for a fresh round of elections.
Opposition parties and former ruling ally ITN toppled the coalition government that took office in December in a 123-116 vote, thrusting the European Union country into a new round of political turmoil amid war in Ukraine and surging inflation.
Petkov, a 42-year-old Harvard graduate who has pledged to combat corruption, has taken a strong pro-European and pro-NATO position since Russia invaded 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.
"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."
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.
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.