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(NW) Caretaker Government: The Whats and Whens

May 4 (Roumen Yanovski of BTA) - The decision by the Bulgarian Socialist Party to return on May 5 the third - and last - Cabinet-forming mandate offered by the President to a party in this Parliament, and the imminent formation of a caretaker government (CTG) justly shifted public attention to the CTG legal standing and the numerous interpretations of its role and functions. The most lasting popular notion about the CTG has been that it is a weak government, in the sense of having less power, whose only task is to prepare and conduct early parliamentary elections. The CTG's legitimacy is firmly established by the Constitution and it leaves no argument about it being "less legitimate" or "weaker". The Constitution says that a CTG is appointed by the President when the parliamentary forces fail to agree on the formation of a government (after three attempts). At the same time the President dissolves Parliament and establishes a date for new general elections, to be held no later than two months from the dissolution of the last legislature. The Constitution does not detail any special powers or set a by-date on the life of a CTG. A Constitutional Court ruling back in 1992, which has been instrumental in understanding what a CTG government may or may not do, says explicitly that a CTG executes the powers of a Parliament-elected government. It also says that certain limitations of its functions stem from the fact that it gets its mandate from an authority other than Parliament, that its term in office is limited to the formation of a new government after the election of a new Parliament, and that there is no parliamentary oversight because the old Parliament is disbanded and a new one is not yet elected. Therefore, a CTG "shall direct and conduct State's domestic and foreign policy in accordance with the Constitution and the laws," as per Article 105 (1) of the Constitution of Bulgaria. Experience shows that the powers of a CTG are quite enough not only to satisfy but to exceed expectations. A CTG headed by Stefan Sofiyanski (February 12, 1997 - May 21, 1997) successfully calmed down social unrest, stabilized the financial system and held negotiations with the IMF - and the IMF usually does not negotiate reforms and lending with caretaker governments. And finally, Sofiyanski government submitted the official application for Bulgaria's accession to NATO. The special (not necessarily "weaker") position of the CTG stems from the fact that the CTG is vested with powers not by the Parliament, but by the President. In other words, there is a certain period of time when a parliamentary republic is run by a "non-parliamentary" government. The question here is not only about the process of formation - who appoints the CTG - but also about who bears political responsibility for the CTG's actions or inactions. The internal controversies over the powers and life of a CTG are not meant to be lasting as a CTG is a last resort, an option to be applied where all other options and procedures have failed. Being a pronounced exception, a CTG's life is limited to a little more than two months as suggested by Article 99, Para 5 of the Constitution. This provision, however, does not satisfy real life situations: What if the next Parliament, too, fails to appoint a government? Procedures for appointing a government by the Parliament are quite clear and could unwind a spiral of moves and actions to last for months - leaving a caretaker government in charge. We know that this year President Rumen Radev will run for re-election and the Constitution does not allow him to dissolve the National Assembly during his last three months in office. This creates a potential situation in which a National Assembly is unable to form a government, a President is not allowed to dissolve the National Assembly and a CTG is responsible only to a candidate for re-election. For now that is a pure hypothetical deserving only scholars' attention. But the April 4 vote and the election of a Parliament that is unable to form a government, gave Bulgarian voters a taste of the Great Unknown. What if the next Bulgarian Parliament is a copy of the recent one - or even worse in terms of potential for coalitions? How events will unfold after the end of the 45th National Assembly and the third government of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov remains to be seen in the coming days and weeks. RY // 05 Май 2021, 08:00

Източник: BTA Free News

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