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Bulgaria's sixth election in three years sparks further political soul-searching

Bulgarian former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov casts his vote at a polling station in Bankya, Sunday, June 9, 2024.
Bulgarian former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov casts his vote at a polling station in Bankya, Sunday, June 9, 2024. Copyright AP
Copyright AP
By Angela Skujins with AP
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On Sunday, Bulgaria recorded low voter turnout for the European elections and the country's sixth vote in three years. Both political exercises reveal a fragmented political scene in the Balkan nation.

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Days after Bulgaria's general election, hope for a healthy, functioning parliament seems to be diminishing — again.

According to the final vote count, the Balkan country's centre-right GERB party received the most votes, 24.7% and the pro-Russian far-right Velichie, or Greatness party, also whipped up 4.65%.

However, GERB will still have to forge a coalition to form a government. Its longtime leader and former Premier Boyko Borissov has already excluded himself from being the PM again, hoping to ease the tensions around the impending negotiations.

At a press conference in Sofia on Wednesday, Borissov said he had invited the leaders of the six other parliamentary groups to talks over a possible agreement next Monday.

“There will be a government if the Prime minister is from GERB. I will not be a candidate,” Borissov emphasised.

Murky prospects and short-lived governments

Paired with voter fatigue — the turnout was at around 30% — and high-profile resignations, Bulgaria's political outlook looks murky.

Sunday's election was the country’s sixth National Assembly vote in three years. In light of the results, experts have not ruled out another snap election and are unsure about what this means for the country's political outlook.

The vote was held on Sunday in parallel with European elections, with 17 European Parliament seats set to be split between six parties.

The ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms party garnered 17.01% of votes and was slightly ahead of the pro-Western reformist bloc led by the We Continue the Change party with 14.3%.

Four other parties also appear to have gained MPs in the 240 seats chamber, according to the latest results by the election commission.

The ultra-nationalist Vazrazhdane party, which opposes any action against Russia in its war against Ukraine, came in fourth with 13.8% of the vote and will likely send three MEPs to the European Parliament for the first time after it won about 14% of the votes in the European elections.

Bulgaria has struggled to maintain a stable government in recent years, with just two short-lived governments in power since April 2021 — one of which was in power for a mere seven months — and most of the time spent in electoral limbo.

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