25th Oct 2016

Bulgarian elections result in uncertainty

  • Sunday's elections were called after mass protests against the centre-right government (Photo: Yordan Simeonov, 24 Chasa)

Former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s centre-right GERB party narrowly won Sunday’s (12 May) snap general elections in Bulgaria, but political turmoil in the country is set to continue, as the tight result will make the formation of a coalition government difficult.

According to preliminary results of the Central Electoral Commission (with 70% of the votes counted), Borisov’s GERB party got around 31.4 percent of the votes, just ahead of its rival Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) with 27.3 percent. Turn-out was low at 53.5 percent.

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Only two other parties passed the 4-percent threshold to enter parliament: the liberal Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) at 9.1 percent and the nationalist Ataka at 7.6 percent.

The results are unlikely to bring in a stable government, as neither GERB nor BSP has enough seats to form a government on its own, while both exclude governing together.

The leaders of the two other parties that made the parliament threshold last night ruled out participating in a coalition with GERB as well, accusing them of corruption and fraud.

This means that Borisov is unlikely to be part of Bulgaria’s next government at all and will probably be in opposition.

Speaking at a press conference late Sunday night, Socialist leader Sergey Stanishev called on the former prime minister to decline a mandate to form a government and pass it on to BSP.

“We will take on the responsibility of forming a new government”, he said, adding that he would enter talks with the leaders of the two other parties.

If BSP is mandated with forming a government, they have proposed as prime minister Plamen Oresharski, a finance expert and former finance minister whom the BSP has dubbed “the Bulgarian Mario Monti,” as “he means stability, economic growth, high incomes, a normal business environment.”

For his part, GERB’s leader Borisov did not give a press conference on Sunday saying he would wait for the final official results.

More instability ahead?

The 12 May early elections were called after Borisov stepped down in February following weeks of mass protests and continuous social unrest in the country against poverty, corruption and “the political system." Bulgaria is the EU poorest member state and unemployment is at 12 percent.

Bulgaria has since then been governed by the caretaker cabinet of Prime Minister Marin Raykov, whose main task was to secure the smooth organisation of the early elections.

But the campaign was mired by scandals and fraud claims while the election day itself was marked by several signals of irregularities, vote buying and controlled voting.

Meanwhile, a proper political debate on economic and social issues and policies was virtually non-existent during the entire campaign - despite the fact that Bulgarian citizens took to the streets en masse in February to call for change.

In a preliminary report published on 2 May, international election observers noted that “the use of nationalistic, at times inflammatory language, allegations of vote-buying, as well as allegations of wire-tapping conducted by the Ministry of Interior involving public figures, have characterized the campaign discourse.”

The author is writing under a pen-name. Their real identity is known to EUobserver.

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