Bulgaria goes to the polls once more in an attempt to break the political impasse.
Bulgarians will vote for the second time in three months on Sunday, hoping that political parties will be able to form a stable government coalition this time.
With 26 percent of the vote in April’s election, the conservative GERB party of three-time Prime Minister Boyko Borisov came out on top after nearly a decade in office.
However, following large anti-corruption protests in summer 2020, GERB found itself isolated in a fractured legislature and unable to form coalitions to rule.
Since then, the 62-year-old Borisov – a former bodyguard with a black belt in karate – has taken a succession of additional blows as a result of revelations by the interim cabinet about inadequate governance and charges of corruption when he was in office.
On top of that, the US imposed extraordinary sanctions against Bulgarian oligarchs who, according to Borisov’s detractors, were given preferential treatment while he was in charge of the European Union’s poorest and most graft-ridden member state.
Borisov, a political veteran whose tenure has characterized Bulgaria’s post-communist history, has denied any misconduct.
He criticized the interim administration for allegedly utilizing “terror and repression” against him at a closing protest in Sofia on Friday evening.
In pre-election polls, GERB was neck-and-neck, if not second, behind Slavi Trifonov’s upstart anti-establishment party, There is Such a People (ITN), which rode public discontent to a surprise second place in April with 17.6 percent.
Both competing parties now have 20-21 percent in polls.
Even if GERB wins by a large margin, political analyst Strahil Deliyski predicted that “they will not govern” since other parties have shunned them.
“The stakes are thus to see if the elections will result in a government (that will continue) the work for long-term transformation begun by the interim administration,” said Antony Todorov, a professor at New Bulgarian University.
Trifonov’s ITN has already refused to collaborate with either GERB, the opposition Socialists, or the MRF, the Turkish minority party.
Instead, it intends to form a coalition with the parties that arose from the protests last summer, including the right-wing Democratic Bulgaria, which polled at 12%, and the left-wing Stand Up! Mafia Out, which polled at 5%-6%.
According to pollsters, the three will most certainly fall short of a majority with 100-110 seats in the 240-seat parliament. They predict another dangerously fragmented legislature, with six or perhaps seven parties surviving the four-percent admission barrier.
“We cannot exclude out a third or fourth election to have a stable government,” an ITN deputy said. Brief News from Washington Newsday.