Advances in Bulgarian elections, but coalition expectations uncertain

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s Gerb party of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov looked on course for a slim victory in Sunday’s election, its fourth in less than two years, as voters sought predictability from a former leader amid steep inflation and war in the country. Ukraine.

Polls conducted by Gallup International and Alpha Research showed the center-right voter turnout with 23.6%-25.5% of the vote. Its main competitor, the reformist We Continue to Change Kirill Petkov, whose government collapsed in June, was next with 19.5% -19.9%.

If the outcome is confirmed, it heralds difficult coalition talks that could end in a hung parliament or even another election.

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Either it prolongs political instability and increases the possibility that Sofia will miss the 2024 target date for entering the eurozone.

Many of Borisov’s political opponents accuse him of allowing endemic corruption to fester during his decade-long term in office that ended last year, complicating efforts to form a functioning majority.

But to some voters in the EU’s poorest member state, Borisov offers a promise of the stability and diplomatic maturity needed to navigate Bulgaria’s complex relationship with Russia.

Sofia, Moscow’s main ally in the European Union, broke away after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, becoming the first EU member besides Poland, an anti-Russia hawk, to cut off gas supplies through Gazprom.

During the campaign, Borisov appeared to tread carefully, saying he would follow the EU and NATO position on Russian policy, but also sent a signal to pro-Russian voters that he would be able to restore relations once the war was over.

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“There is a war in the world,” he said after casting his vote. “It is important that the country stays on its Euro-Atlantic course.”

The 42-year-old Harvard graduate, who refuses to rule with Borisov, said on Sunday that Bulgarians were choosing between the policies of a transitional period marred by endemic corruption and a more transparent Bulgaria that would be a reliable member of the European Union.

Recognizing the economic risks of the war in Ukraine, the difficult winter ahead and voters’ frustration with political instability, analysts say, could ignore their differences and opt for a technocratic government.

“Many Bulgarians expect compromises to be reached and want to see a government. It won’t be easy, but that’s what the politicians are after,” Boriana Dimitrova of polling center Alpha Research said after the polls were published.

Up to six other groups are expected to enter parliament, including the ethnic Turkish Nationalist Movement Party, the Socialists, and the pro-Russian Nationalist Revival.

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(Reporting by Tsvetiliya Tsolova) Editing by Nick McPhee, Gareth Jones, Justina Pavlac and Frances Kerry

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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