Early on Wednesday morning, amid nation-wide protests Prime Minister Boyko Borisov of Bulgaria announced the resignation of his cabinet in front of the National Assembly. Nettled by the extraordinarily high electricity bills for January, people took to the streets in all of the country’s major cities 11 days earlier. Although the demonstrations primarily targeted the monopolistic nature of the privatized electricity distribution companies, they eventually evolved into manifestations of dissent with the austere economic policies of the government and the persistently low standards of living in the country. In an attempt to soothe the masses, a day before resigning, Borisov sacked Simeon Djankov, Bulgaria’s Minister of Finance, but the move did not manage to alleviate the pent-up tension. Thus, after yet another night of clashes between police forces and protesters, the troubled head of Bulgaria’s government could not but ask for the dissolution of his cabinet – a request that the GERB-dominated (GERB is the party of PM Borisov) parliament fulfilled this Thursday.

While by handing in its resignation, the cabinet of PM Borisov displayed a sense of political responsibility and gallantry, Bulgaria has now entered a political quagmire, which makes it ever more difficult to address the financial concerns of the people and to terminate the ongoing wave of demonstrations.  Had the people wanted the deposition of the government, then they would have returned to their homes this Wednesday. However, they are still on the streets and their fears remain unchanged: with growing and incomprehensible bills and unaltered income for years, it has become nearly impossible to make ends meet. Faced with the refusal of the other legislatively-represented parties to form a cabinet, however, President Rosen Plevneliev is more concerned, and understandably so, with appointing a caretaker government, which should lead the country until snap elections take place by mid-May. Additionally, Mr. Plevneliev has little power over the policy-making process in Bulgaria’s parliamentary democracy, so his focus on finding individuals to form an expert council of ministers is a logical move.

Understanding the current troubles of the Balkan country entails a quick look into its recent past and the policies pursued by the government of PM Borisov. After a landslide victory in the 2009 parliamentary election of his party GERB, Borisov was able to form a single-party government and to take the whole responsibility for Bulgaria’s future. Assuming power at the peak of the financial crisis in Europe, however, his cabinet was forced to implement a policy of wage control: income levels remained the same, but, thus, they also remained unadjusted for inflation and the increasing prices of utilities. His government did, however, undertake a policy of rapid and intensive infrastructural expansion using designated European Union funds in an attempt to attract foreign investments. In fact, while European economies were experiencing significant budget deficits, Minister of Finance Djankov managed to keep Bulgaria as Europe’s champion in terms of fiscal shortages and stability, which lead to increases in its ratings by agencies, such as Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s. However, while the country fared well internationally with its conservative expenditure policy, tension at home was gradually accumulating as people were experiencing growing financial hardships, which eventually led to the outburst of protests and the subsequent resignation of the government earlier this week.

The future of Bulgaria now resides in the hands of President Plevneliev, for he is the person in charge of finding the most apt politicians and experts, who will have to assume power temporarily, assuage the protesters and usher Bulgaria into a new era of stability. Ironically, the rumor goes that Simeon Djankov, the recently-sacked former Minister of Finance, could be Plevneliev’s choice for head of the caretaker government. Certainly, should the rumors about Djankov’s appointment materialize, another controversy will be sparked since his neo-liberal policies and wariness of adjusting expenditures will most probably not appease demonstrators, though they may restore the trust of foreign partners in the country. Other names which circulate in the Bulgarian press include former caretaker government PM Reneta Indzhova and the CEO of the Bulgarian National Bank Iskren Iskrov, among others. Regardless of whom Mr. Plevneliev appoints, however, Bulgaria’s temporary leaders will have myriad issues to tackle with limited power, so the continuation of the current demonstrations seems inevitable.

The current government crisis and the idée mére behind the demands of the protesters – the nationalization of the electricity distribution companies – have had a sound resonance in the international community as well, casting a shade of uncertainty over the political and business climate in the country. The discussion about Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area, which was expected to end on a positive note at the summit of the Ministers of Internal Affairs of the EU countries on March 7, has been removed from the meeting’s agenda. The calls for the revocation of the license of CEZ, the Czech company in charge of the electricity network in the western part of the country, have set Bulgarian official at odds with their Czech counterparts and will certainly dissuade hesitant foreign investors from putting their money in the Bulgarian economy as a sign of instability and lack of investments security. It seems, therefore, that beyond the domestic sense of chaos and precariousness which has taken over the protesting masses, Bulgaria is also bound to face further ramifications in the shape of unrealized financial transactions from abroad and complicated relations with the countries whose companies could be affected during the resolution of the current crisis.

Amid ongoing protests and having no government to refer to, Bulgaria’s President Mr. Rosen Plevneliev now has to act decisively so as to lead the country out of the alarming status quo. What choices he will make remains to be seen in the upcoming days.