Bulgaria castles

Third time lucky? Bulgaria hopes to end long political stalemate

Boyko Borissov, former Bulgarian Prime Minister and leader of the center-right GERB party, looks on after meeting with supporters in the town of Teteven, Bulgaria on November 10, 2021. Photo taken on November 10, 2021. REUTERS / Stoyan Nenov

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  • COVID-19, energy prices and corruption at a glance
  • Fractured parliament and affected coalition talks expected
  • GERB dominates polls but lacks allies
  • New centrist party and socialists next in the polls

SOFIA, Nov.11 (Reuters) – Bulgaria holds its third parliamentary election this year on Sunday in hopes of finally securing a government to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, cope with rising energy prices and eliminate corruption.

No party is expected to win an absolute majority and the European Union’s poorest member state is facing its third round of tough coalition talks this year in a deeply fractured parliament.

Failure to form a new government could potentially slow Bulgaria’s plans to adopt the euro by 2024 and delay measures to cushion the impact of high energy costs on consumers this winter.

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Former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s center-right GERB party leads the polls with around 24% support but lacks obvious allies. We Continue the Change, a new centrist party that focuses on anti-corruption and left-wing socialists, rank next at 15-16%.

Voters’ hopes that a viable coalition will take shape are tarnished by political differences and rivalries that prevented the formation of a new government after the July and April elections. The country is currently ruled by an interim government.

“Two things are clear: the new parliament will not be easier than the previous two and forming a government will not be easier,” said Boryana Dimitrova, political analyst at Alpha Research.

But, with politicians pressured by weary voters to put aside their differences, she said it was widely expected that “we cannot end up without a government for the third time.”

She and other political analysts say that a government could eventually be formed bringing together the anti-corruption parties and the socialists.

“Potential cooperation between the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and the so-called ‘protest parties’, in particular the newcomer We Continue the Change, could be the key to solving a protracted government crisis,” said Andrius Tursa of consulting firm Teneo.

A presidential election that will also be held on Sunday will likely be simpler, with Rumen Radev set to retain the largely ceremonial post after a likely run-off against Sofia University rector Anastas Gerdzhikov.

CORRUPTION

The dominant problem in Bulgarian elections has long been corruption, widely blamed for the low standard of living in this Balkan country of 7 million people, where the gross domestic product per capita is only 55% of the average. the EU.

We Continue the Change, created in September by two former Harvard-trained acting ministers, has garnered support by attacking corruption and criticizing Borisov for not doing enough to tackle corruption during a decade in power.

After major anti-corruption protests against Borisov’s government in 2020, he did not extend his reign after the April vote. Although the GERB won more votes than any other party in the former communist state at the time, others avoided it.

The GERB was relegated to second place by the anti-establishment ITN party in July. But ITN has been unable to form a coalition and its support has since collapsed, while the political stalemate has helped Borisov mobilize key GERB supporters.

Other big electoral issues are high energy costs and concerns about rising coronavirus infections and deaths in the least vaccinated state in the EU.

Librarian Maya Danailova, 60, wants a government that is serious about rooting out corruption.

“We cannot continue like this, without investigations, without bringing out the truth,” she said.

Pensioner Georgi Georgiev, 79, worries about the possible consequences of the absence of a new government.

“I hope that this parliament will form a government, because otherwise the situation will get worse … All the crises will get worse,” he said.

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Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova, editing by Jan Lopatka and Timothy Heritage

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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