Bulgarians go to the polls for the second time in three months after the long-ruling GERB party failed to find coalition partners.
Bulgarians went to the polls for the second time in three months, hoping that this time the political parties could agree on a stable government coalition.
Sunday’s voting began at 7 AM (04:00 GMT) and ends at 8 PM (17:00 GMT) and the poll results are expected soon after.
After nearly 10 years in power, three-time Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s conservative GERB party came out in the last elections in April with 26 percent of the vote.
However, it was hit hard after widespread anti-corruption protests in the summer of 2020, impeached in a fragmented legislature and failed to find partners to govern.
Since then, 62-year-old Borisov, a former bodyguard who wears a black belt in karate, has been dealt a series of blows by the interim government’s revelations about mismanagement and allegations of corruption under his rule.
Moreover, the unprecedented US sanctions came against the Bulgarian oligarchs who, according to Borisov’s critics, were the favorites during his administration of the poorest and most corrupt member state of the European Union.
The veteran Borisov, whose political longevity had the history of post-communist Bulgaria, denied any wrongdoing.
At a closing rally in Sofia on Friday evening, he criticized the interim administration for allegedly using “terrorism and repression” against him.
Polls on the eve of the poll put GERB in volatile and second only to the new, anti-establishment party. In April, it increased by 17.6 percent.
Opinion polls now put both rival parties at 20-21 percent.
Trifonov’s ITN has already refused to work with GERB, opposition socialists or the Turkish minority MRF, the government’s traditional parties.
Instead, hope to form a coalition with the parties that emerged from last summer’s protests – the right-wing Democratic Bulgaria, with 12 percent, and the Left Standing Party! Mafia exit by 5-6 percent.
All three are likely to fall short of a majority by about 100-110 seats in the 240-seat parliament, according to polls, who expect another poorly fragmented legislature with six or even seven parties exceeding the 4 percent entry threshold.
“For a stable government … we cannot rule out a third or fourth election,” ITN Vice President Toshko Yordanov told Nova TV on Wednesday.
He said that this would be done in order to avoid “forming a government… that Parliament might overthrow at any moment.”
“The country will not collapse, this is the democratic process,” Yordanov added in a rare public appearance at the end of an unorthodox campaign that saw most parties refuse to give media interviews.
Trifonov himself is not running and has announced that he will not hold the post of prime minister.
For the first time, voting will be done primarily by machine in an effort to reduce voter fraud.
The interim government has set out to try to curb widespread vote buying and voter intimidation – the long-established practice of political parties that account for 5-19% of the vote, according to the Sofia-based Anti-Corruption Fund Foundation.
More than 900 people were arrested recently for allegedly trying to bribe poverty-stricken voters with 20-50 levs ($12-30), firewood and even basic foodstuffs such as flour, bread or lentils, Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov said on Friday.