Bulgaria's president asked the Socialists to form a new government on Monday, amid a long-running political crisis.
Rumen Radev gave the Socialist Party a mandate to try and create a new government in a last attempt to avoid the country's fifth general election in two years.
Amid a cost-of-living crisis and the war in Ukraine, Bulgarian politics has taken a bumpy turn recently, with successive governments collapsing due to resignations and no-confidence votes.
Although their chances of success are dim, Socialist leader Kornelia Ninova said her party would make every effort to establish "a regular government, which this country badly needs at this point.”
Radev's move came after the two main groups in Bulgaria's parliament – the centre-right GERB party and the reformist We Continue the Change party — failed to find enough support to form their own coalitions.
Political parties with the strongest election results are given the first two mandates, but a third one can be offered to one of the president's choosing.
In Bulgaria's most recent election in October, the Socialist Party finished fifth.
GERB and Democratic Bulgaria have previously said they will not support a Socialist-led government, mainly because the left-wing party is pro-Russian and has repeatedly voted against military aid to Ukraine.
If the Socialists fail to find coalition partners, the president must dissolve parliament, appoint a caretaker government and schedule another early election to be held in two months.
Analysts expect another election would produce a similar outcome.
This would mark a continuation of the political showdown that has gripped the country since 2020, when thousands of Bulgarians took to the streets to demand reforms in the judiciary and efficient anti-corruption actions.
The political crisis adds to the economic woes of the European Union’s poorest member.
More volatility could delay its plans to join the eurozone and the EU’s visa-free Schengen Area, as well as the timely receipt of billions of euros in EU recovery funds.