GERB party wins Bulgaria election, near-final vote count shows

The centre-right party headed by former long-serving PM scoops 25.4 percent of the vote, with 99 percent of ballots counted.

Bulgaria’s centre-right GERB party – led by former long-serving Prime Minister Boyko Borissov – is set to win Sunday’s election, the fourth in less than two years, partial results showed, but its chances of forming a coalition government remain unclear.

With 99 percent of the ballots counted as of Monday morning, partial official results showed GERB winning with 25.4 percent.

Its main rival, the reformist We Continue the Change of former Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, whose coalition cabinet collapsed in June, came second with 20.2 percent. A low turnout reflected voter apathy.

The results point to difficult coalition talks in a fractured parliament or even another snap election in the European Union member state.

Either would prolong political instability amid surging energy and consumer prices and war in Ukraine and would raise the prospect of Bulgaria missing its 2024 target date for entry into the single-currency euro area.

Five other parties are expected to have made it into the 240-seat chamber.

They are the ethnic Turkish MRF party with a projected 13.7 percent, the pro-Russian Vazrazhdane party with 10.2 percent, the Socialist party with 9.3 percent, the liberal anti-corruption group Democratic Bulgaria with 7.5 percent, and the newly formed nationalist Bulgarian Rise party on 4.6 percent.

Final official results are expected on Thursday.

Efforts to put together a functioning coalition are predicted to be complicated by the fact that many of Borissov’s political adversaries accuse him of allowing widespread corruption to fester during his 10-year rule that ended last year. Borissov denies the allegations.

Some voters in the EU’s poorest member state say Borissov offers stability and has the diplomatic experience required to navigate Bulgaria’s complex relationship with Russia.

Open to talks

Borissov is yet to comment on the election results. Prior to the vote, he indicated he would be open to talks with all political parties and appealed to his rivals to show “reason” ahead of a difficult winter.

We Continue the Change party has conceded defeat and said it would stay in the opposition.

“We have pledged that we would not go into coalition with GERB and we will stay true to our promise,” Petkov said on Monday, adding that his party remained adamant about fighting endemic corruption.

Vessela Cherneva, deputy chief of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said there was the possibility of two types of coalitions forming: an anti-corruption coalition, in which GERB under Borissov would find no place, or a geopolitical coalition of the centrist parties, which would be possible only if Borissov resigns from leading his party.

“A scenario under which there is no coalition possible would undermine parliamentary democracy in Bulgaria and will further tilt the balance toward the pro-Russian President [Rumen] Radev,” Cherneva said in a post on Twitter.

“Who will be in power will also impact the way the country will cope with recession and inflation, which is over 17 percent already now,” she added.

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