Bulgaria's centre-right GERB party fails to secure majority to form government

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's prime minister-designate Rosen Zhelyazkov of the centre-right GERB party failed on Wednesday to secure support for his proposed cabinet in parliament, prolonging a political stalemate in the Balkan country.

Bulgaria, the poorest member of the European Union and one of its most corrupt states, has been plagued by revolving-door governments since anti-graft protests in 2020 helped topple a coalition led by GERB.

President Rumen Radev gave the mandate on Monday to Zhelyazkov to form a new government following another inconclusive election last month - the sixth in three years - but GERB needed the support of at least two other parties to secure parliamentary approval.

In Wednesday's vote, 98 deputies in the 240-seat parliament backed Zhelyazkov's minority government proposal, while 138 opposed it. The outcome raises the prospect of yet another election in Bulgaria.

The Movement for Rights and Freedom, mainly representing Bulgaria's large ethnic Turkish minority, came second in the June election with 47 seats, while the reformist We Continue The Change (PP) party won 39 seats.

June's election was triggered by the collapse in March of a coalition comprising GERB - which has held power in Bulgaria for much of the previous 15 years - and the PP party.

Radev is expected in the coming days to hand to another party the mandate to form a government but that is also likely to fail.

Bulgaria needs a period of stable, well-functioning government to accelerate the flow of EU funds into its creaking infrastructure and to nudge it towards joining the euro and fully participating in Europe's open-border Schengen area.

Plans to join the eurozone have already been pushed back twice because of missed inflation targets.

(Reporting by Stoyan Nenov; Writing by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Gareth Jones)