Friday, July 19, 2024

Bulgaria is preparing for difficult coalition talks after its fifth inconclusive election


  • Sunday’s elections were the fifth in Bulgaria in two years
  • The European Union for Change party headed by former Prime Minister Borisov sheds light on the reformist bloc
  • The lack of confidence between the two main blocs hampered talks to form a coalition
  • The president will invite the leader of the largest party to start the talks

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria appeared set on Monday for protracted and difficult coalition talks after parliamentary elections, the fifth in two years, again failed to produce a clear winner.

A bloc led by former prime minister Boyko Borisov’s centre-right party won 26.5% of the vote in Sunday’s election, while a pro-Western reformist bloc led by We Continue the Change (PP) got 24.6%, according to preliminary results after almost all the votes were counted.

“An interim technocratic government or another (sixth) snap vote remains the most likely outcome of the election,” said Andrius Tursa of political risk consultancy Teneo.

Bulgaria’s prolonged political stalemate, caused mainly by personal animosity between the leaders of the two main blocs, has already forced the country to delay the target date for adopting the euro, and it has yet to approve the 2023 budget bill.

Uncertainty has also hampered Bulgaria’s ability to harness EU funds for a post-pandemic recovery, and analysts and voters fear the chaotic outcome of Sunday’s contest could trigger another election later this year.

The nationalist Revival Party, sympathetic to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Ukraine war and opposed to Bulgaria joining the euro, finished third in Sunday’s election with 14.1%, up several percentage points from the previous vote last October.

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The ethnic Turkish MRF is fourth with 13% while the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the heir to the once powerful Communist Party, has 9%.

Angry voters

Bulgarian voters are fed up with the failure of politicians to set aside their differences and collaborate on forming a government capable of addressing the cost-of-living crisis and rooting out endemic corruption.

“A government should eventually be formed because we’ve been going to elections now for two years. State money is being drained to finance these elections, and yet it could have been used for completely different purposes,” Shishman Shishmanov, 30, a financial broker, said on Monday.

The Bulgarian People’s Party and its ally Democratic Bulgaria (DB) accuse GERB of presiding over rampant corruption in the EU’s poorest member state during their decade-long rule that ended in April 2021, something Borisov denies.

For some voters, Borisov, a veteran politician, could help restore a modicum of stability to Bulgaria amid soaring inflation and geopolitical fears sparked by the Ukraine war. But PP/DB has so far ruled out an alliance with GERB.

Both Borisov and Kirill Petkov, 42, who was educated at Harvard, want Bulgaria, a NATO member albeit with close historical and cultural ties to Russia, to maintain its pro-Ukraine stance in the war.

For most of the past two years, Bulgaria has been ruled by technocratic provisional governments appointed by President Rumen Radev, an independent who is seen as relatively friendly to Russia.

Borissov’s GERB and PP/DB may support a technocratic government because they accept the need to adopt the 2023 budget, the reforms required to access EU funds post-COVID, and steps to prepare Bulgaria to join the euro, Teneo’s Torsa said.

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Official final results of Sunday’s elections are expected no later than April 6. Radev promised to move quickly to invite the leader of the party that won the majority of votes to start coalition talks.

Written by Gareth Jones, Editing by Justina Pawlak, Sharon Singleton and Ed Osmond

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Rainerio Manuel
Rainerio Manuel

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