The votes are still being counted in Bulgaria’s general election, but it appears that the opposition Socialists are heading for victory and will be the largest party. However leader Sergei Stanishev faces a tough time forming a government, as early results only give him a shade under 32 percent of the vote, and 84 seats in the 240-member parliament. His preferred coalition partners would be the mainly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms, but their co-operation would still leave him short of an outright majority.
The outgoing prime minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg is refusing to admit defeat. His centrist National Movement is on course to win about a quarter of the vote, and he insists there is still a possibility his party could lead a new coalition government. In all there are four other parties in the equation, notably the radical nationalists Attack, who may have taken votes from the Socialists. Observers fear that if there is a lengthy deal-making process before a new government is formed it may delay the reforms Bulgaria needs to join the EU in 2007.