Borissov's GERB party leads in Bulgaria's election

Voters cast their votes at a polling station in Sofia, Sunday, April 2, 2023.
Voters cast their votes at a polling station in Sofia, Sunday, April 2, 2023. Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews with AP
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The centre-right GERB party of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is leading in the count after Bulgaria's 5th general election in two years.

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The centre-right GERB party of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is leading in the count after Bulgaria's 5th general election in two years.

With 86% of the ballots counted, GERB is accredited with 26.6% of the vote, two points ahead of the We Continue the Change party of another ex-premier, Kiril Petkov.

Earlier exit polls had put Petkov ahead.

The election was marked by a low turnout, only 38% of the voters. 

Pro-Russian party boosts score

The nationalist Revival Party, which is considered pro-Russian, is forecast to come third with 14.5% of the vote, up from its 10% score last time. It said it would not be joining coalition talks.

"The only government we are ready to support is our own government," said party leader Kostadin Kostadinov.

Traditionally, many Bulgarians in this former communist nation share pro-Russia sentiments, which provides fertile soil for aggressive Kremlin propaganda and intelligence activity in the current NATO member country. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has dug deeper divisions in Bulgarian society and fueled support for the pro-Moscow parties.

Rivalries are a barrier to coalition talks

Bulgaria needs political stability to implement the major institutional reforms required by the EU before it can receive €5 billion in recovery plan funding.

But the low turnout shows the wide disillusionment with the political stalemate in the country.

The We Continue the Change party, has said it would reject a coalition deal with GERB if Borissov remained at its helm. It regards Borissov as a divisive figure and has accused him of promoting corrupt policies.

After casting his ballot, Borissov said wisdom from politicians was the only way out of the crisis. He said Bulgaria must have a stable government “if we don’t want to commit suicide as a nation.”

“It will be a catastrophe for the country if a ruling majority could not be formed,” Borissov said, adding that he was ready to compromise.

The DPS, a liberal party with strong support in the Turkish and Roma minorities, is forecast to obtain 13% of the vote and said it would be open to joining a coalition government.

"Don’t expect us to fix any red lines," said leader Mustafa Karadayi. "We call for dialogue at a national level".

Compromise may be found to end caretaker rule

Some analysts predict that some compromise could be made, to put an end to the consecutive caretaker governments appointed by President Rumen Radev, a former military general, in the last few years that have quietly shifted the country’s orientation toward Russia.

But others are are sceptical.

"The two parties and coalitions that got the best results have the same Euro-Atlantic positions about the war in Ukraine and about the entrance of Bulgaria into the Eurozone and Schengen," said Milen Zhelev, political analyst at Sophia University. "I think that they are not going to seat at the same table and make a coalition. That's why I think we will continue with the same political crisis in Bulgaria."

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