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25th Jul 2016

Focus

Bulgaria heads for early elections after EU vote

  • Bulgaria has been rocked by numerous protests over the last year (Photo: Bmw Spirit)

Bulgaria is heading for early elections in autumn following a sizeable shift in the fortunes of domestic political parties after the May EU vote.

After a gathering of all major parties on Tuesday (17 June) president Rosen Plevenliev said it had been agreed that national elections would be held between 28 September and 12 October – more than two years ahead of schedule.

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The move was prompted by the EU election which resulted in a change in the balance of power.

Ex-prime minister Boyko Borisov's centre-right Gerb got 30.4 percent while the ruling Socialist party got 18.94 percent and its current coalition partner, the Turkish minority party, got 17.26 percent.

The Turkish minority party saw the biggest boost (an increase of 6 percentage points) compared to national elections last year. Meanwhile the EU results represented a slump of eight percentage points for the Socialists while Gerb maintained roughly the same support.

"The European elections presented a clear alternative and the parties agreed on the need for a transition to political stability," Pleveneliev said.

The May election prompted Lutvi Mestan, Turkish minority party leader, to demand early national elections.

His party is the one that will benefit the most if the vote is held as soon as possible, according to poll results.

Mestan's call for an early election gathered momentum once Gerb and two newly-formed groups not represented in the current national parliament (Bulgaria without Censorship and the Reformist Bloc) came on board.

The call represents the culmination of a tumultuous year for the government – it has been unsteady virtually from the moment it came to power.

Only a month after it was elected, in May 2013, tens of thousands of citizens blockaded government headquarters demanding its resignation after the media mogul, Delyan Peevski, was appointed head of the State Agency of National Security.

Prime minister Plamen Oresharski eventually rescinded the appointment. But the initial protest had already turned into a generalised movement with Bulgarians long angry about falling living standards and corruption.

Ever since, the prime minister has been refusing to step down despite numerous demonstrations and four (failed) attempts to oust the government via no-confidence votes in the national assembly.

The calls for the government to resign multiplied after it lost the European elections. Last weekend, tens of thousands of protestors once again gathered in front of the government's office.

So far no date has been set for the government to leave office. The most probable date is the end of July as new elections can take place at the earliest two months after a government resigns.

This would make Pleveneliev the only Bulgarian president to have appointed two governments during his term.

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