It has been described as the black sheep of the European Union.
Bulgaria goes to the polls today to elect a new parliament that will have to tackle endemic corruption to regain the trust of Brussels. The poll is expected to oust Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev’s ruling Socialists. His government has been widely accused of lacking the political will to sever links between politicians, the judiciary and crime bosses. And last year, as punishment, the EU’s poorest member state lost access to millions of euros in aid from the bloc. The centre-right opposition led by the straight-talking mayor of Sofia looks set to win most votes but not an outright majority. Former bodyguard Boiko Borisov has campaigned hard on promises to jail corrupt officials and organised crime bosses. But the powerbroker in the ballot could be the party representing Bulgaria’s ethnic Turks and other Muslims, although leader Ahmed Dogan’s critics say his liberal MRF has been involved in some of the major corruption scandals over the past decade. Against this background, Bulgaria’s coast has been hit hard by the property crash that has followed the world financial crisis. The boom is over, with foreign investors fleeing and holiday apartments struggling to be sold.