Bulgaria held its fifth general election in two years on Sunday with political leaders hoping to end government instability and provide a path through Ukraine’s war-fueled economic woes.
Voter turnout was expected to be low due to voter apathy and disillusionment with politicians who have repeatedly been unable to form a viable governing coalition.
The latest opinion polls suggested the chances of an immediate end to the political deadlock were low, with up to seven groups potentially meeting the 4 per cent threshold to enter a fragmented parliament. According to polls, populist and pro-Russian parties are likely to increase their representation.
Most pollsters see three-time prime minister Boyko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party running neck and neck at around 26% with its main rival, Kiril Petkov’s liberal We Continue the Change party, which he recently formed a coalition with right-wing democratic Bulgaria.
After voting, Borissov said that the wisdom of politicians is the only way out of the crisis. He said that Bulgaria must have a stable government “if we don’t want to commit suicide as a nation”.
“It will be a catastrophe for the country if we fail to form a majority in power,” said Borissov, adding that he was ready to compromise.
Asked about a future coalition with Borissov’s GERB party, the co-leader of Democratic Bulgaria, Hristo Ivanov, said governing with partner parties requires a high level of trust and understanding. He added that he didn’t think a coalition with GERB fulfilled those conditions.
“We will rather look for a formula based on some kind of unity around specific priorities,” Ivanov said.
The We Continue the Change party said it would also reject a coalition deal with GERB if Borissov remained at its helm. Let’s Keep the Change, which regards Borissov as a controversial figure and has accused him of promoting corrupt policies, has proposed forming a minority government with support from the GERB, which has rejected the idea.
However, party leaders were trying to soften their aggressive rhetoric to find an alternative to the successive interim governments appointed by President Rumen Radev in recent years that have quietly moved the country towards Russia.
Traditionally, many Bulgarians share pro-Russian sentiments, which provide fertile ground for aggressive Kremlin propaganda in the poorest member country of the European Union.
Polls indicate that the ultranationalist Vazrazhdane party, a vocal supporter of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, could increase its parliamentary presence from 10% to 13% of seats.