Ex-PM Borissov holds slim lead in Bulgaria's election as count continues

Former Bulgarian Prime Minister and leader of centre-right GERB party Boyko Borisov casts his vote at a polling station during the country's parliamentary election in Sofia on July 11, 2021.
Former Bulgarian Prime Minister and leader of centre-right GERB party Boyko Borisov casts his vote at a polling station during the country's parliamentary election in Sofia on July 11, 2021. © Nikolay Doychinov, AFP

The centre-right GERB party of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov won 23.9 percent of votes in the parliamentary election in Bulgaria, data from the central electoral commission showed on Monday, with 95 percent of the ballots counted.


The new anti-establishment party There Is Such a People (ITN) came a close second with 23.7 percent in the Balkan country’s second election in three months, the data showed. The anti-graft groupings Democratic Bulgaria and Stand Up! Mafia Out!, the likely coalition partners of ITN, got 12.6 percent and 5 percent percent, respectively.

The Socialists and the ethnic Turkish MRF party won 13.6 percent and 10.6 percent of the vote, respectively.

Final official results are expected on Thursday.

Deep divisions

Bulgaria’s second election since April reflects deep divisions in the European Union’s poorest member state over the legacy of Borissov’s decade-long rule.

Many have turned to anti-establishment or anti-graft parties in hope of more resolute action against pervasive corruption, blaming Borissov, 62, for turning a blind eye or even supporting powerful oligarchs.

But GERB continues to benefit from public support for its efforts to modernise the crumbling infrastructure and road network and to bolster public sector pay.

Even if official results confirm GERB as the largest party, its chances of forging a ruling coalition are slim, political observers say. GERB came in first in an inconclusive election in April, winning 26.2 percent, but was shunned by other parties.

ITN may be better positioned, with the support of its likely partners, two small anti-graft groupings, Democratic Bulgaria and Stand Up! Mafia Out!

But weeks of coalition talks, or even another election, are now possible, meaning Bulgaria may face difficulty tapping the European Union’s multi-billion euro coronavirus recovery package or approving its 2022 budget plans.


GERB was quick to concede its chances to return to government were slim.

“We will continue to work for what we believe in, no matter what role the voters have decided for us. Actually, to be an opposition is a fair and an honourable way to defend one’s principles,” GERB deputy leader Tomislav Donchev told reporters.

Daniel Smilov, a political analyst with Centre for Liberal Strategies, said a coalition led by ITN may be 5-10 seats short to be able to govern without the support of long-established groupings such as the Socialists or the ethnic Turkish MRF.

“Forming a government will be very difficult,” he said.

The protest parties, which want to foster close ties with Bulgaria’s allies in NATO and the European Union, have promised to revamp the judiciary to cement rule of law and ensure proper use of funds due to pour in as part of the EU’s coronavirus recovery package.

Bulgaria has had a long history of corruption, but a number of recent scandals and the imposition of US sanctions last month against several Bulgarians for alleged graft have dominated the campaign.

The current interim government, appointed after the April vote, has accused Borissov’s cabinet of spending billions of levs of taxpayer money without transparent procurement procedures, among other shortcomings.

GERB denies wrongdoing and says such accusations are politically motivated.


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