SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — The center-right GERB party of ex-premier Boyko Borissov appeared to be the winner of Bulgaria’s parliamentary election, the country’s central electoral commission said Monday, with 99% of the ballots counted.
Results showed the GERB party receiving 26.6% of the vote, nearly 2% more than the pro-Western reformist bloc led by the We Continue the Change party.
Four other parties also appear to have gained seats in the 240-seat chamber, according to the latest results.
Riding a wave of pro-Russian sentiment that many in this former communist nation share, the ultra-nationalist Vazrazhdane party, which opposes any actions against Putin’s Russia, boosted support to come in third with 14.2% of the vote.
The ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms came in fourth with 13.4%, followed by the Socialist party and the There is Such People party, led by a popular TV entertainer, with 9% and 4.1% respectively.
It could take days before the final official results are announced. If confirmed, Borissov will be handed a mandate to form his fourth government.
But it seems Borissov will face an uphill struggle to cobble together a governing coalition in a fragmented parliament.
Political analysts predicted that the results, which do not differ significantly from the previous four elections held within the last two years, will be followed by difficult coalition talks. They don’t rule out another election.
Ruzha Smilova, program director at the Center for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, said that although the two leading political groups share the same strategic foreign policy goals, their visions of the country’s future as part of the Western alliance diverge.
“GERB’s vision is that the country can do as much as it has shown so far, namely, to remain the most poor and corrupt EU country … clinging to the past, to Bulgaria’s well-trodden paths as the weakest EU member state and the most hesitant partner in NATO,” Smilova told the Associated Press.
“On the other side, is a Bulgaria that integrates more quickly into the EU and offers a perspective to its citizens to faster catch up with European average income and standard of living.”
Smilova said the situation gets more complicated as these two positions are challenged by a “euroskepticism” – equally represented within the Bulgarian population – that nudges the country away from it’s Euro-Atlantic orientation and more toward the east.
“One of the effects of the long rule of President Rumen Radev’s caretaker cabinets has been the hesitant position on such important issues as the EU and NATO, and the support for Ukraine in the war that the aggressor Russia has launched against them,” Smilova said.