Bulgaria's PM resigns, as agreed, amid some coalition confusion

FILE PHOTO: French President Macron and Bulgarian PM Denkov hold joint press conference in Paris

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov resigned on Tuesday, paving the way for his coalition partner, the centre-right GERB party, to lead the government as agreed following last year's elections, but there was some dispute as to what happens next.

GERB and a pro-Western bloc led by "We Continue to Change", which Denkov represents, signed the agreement last year under which Foreign Minister and ex-European Commissioner Maria Gabriel would take over as prime minister after Denkov completes his nine-month term.

EU and NATO member Bulgaria's BTA agency said Denkov's resignation would be forwarded to parliament. It did not say when Gabriel would be sworn in.

The Sofia Globe news website warned that the coalition, despite the agreement, could fall apart over disputes between partners on how to proceed following Denkov's resignation.

GERB insists that Gabriel should keep her position as foreign minister while she is prime minister and suggests rotation every 15 months instead of nine months. Both issues are still being negotiated with "We Continue to Change".

The two parties are expected to announce if they reached agreement by Friday, the website reported.

"This is not a political game but keeping one's word, an expression of continuity, political fair play and respect for citizens," Denkov said in a statement.

"I am now honouring the commitment that we assumed by the joint declaration on June 6, 2023."

On that day, parliament voted in the government, which was set to implement reforms that would eventually lead the Balkan country into the euro zone and open-borders Schengen area.

In elections last April, GERB came first, winning 69 seats in the 240-seat parliament. The bloc led by "We Continue to Change" won 64 seats.

(Reporting by Stoyan Nenov; Writing by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Nick Macfie)