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Bulgaria's New Fragmented Parliament Convenes Ahead Of Coalition Talks.

SOFIA -- Bulgarian lawmakers have convened for their first session of parliament since a newly formed anti-graft party emerged as the surprise winner of the country's third general elections this year.
Lawmakers voted 158-1 with 72 abstentions on December 3 to approve the We Continue The Change party's nominee for speaker, 34-year-old lawyer Nikola Minchev. Under the constitution, President Rumen Radev will give the party led by two Harvard University graduates a mandate to form the next government. Radev, who was reelected to a second five-year term last month, told lawmakers that he would start consultations with the parliamentary political groups on December 6. The co-leader of We Continue the Change, Kiril Petkov, said he was ready to assume the post of prime minister if a coalition agreement is reached with potential partners -- the leftist Socialist Party, the anti-elite There is Such a People party, and the liberal anti-corruption group Democratic Bulgaria. Petkov said he expected such a deal next week. Voters in the poorest nation in the European Union went to the polls on November 14 to elect a new parliament in a bid to break a monthslong political deadlock and secure a government to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic as well as rising energy prices and endemic corruption. Two parliaments elected in April and July had failed to produce governments because of unclear majorities and disagreements between political parties on a new cabinet. We Continue the Change won the most seats in the last election -- 67 -- but it fell well short of the majority needed in the 240-seat chamber to form a government on its own. Six other parties entered the fragmented legislature, including the GERB party of former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, which received 59 seats, and the ethnic-Turkish MRF party with 34 seats. The Socialists came fourth with 26 legislators, followed by There is Such a People with 25 seats, Democratic Bulgaria with 16 seats, and the pro-Russian nationalist group Vazrazhdane with 13 seats. Ahead of the vote, Petkov rejected the prospect of forming a ruling coalition with the GERB or MRF parties.

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