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  • Borislav Ivanov

Borissov's GERB Takes First Place in Bulgaria's Tight Election

The fifth parliamentary election in Bulgaria within two years did not deliver a decisive victory, with no clear winner emerging after 93% of the votes were tallied, prolonging the nation's years of political deadlock.

Credit: Boulevard Bulgaria

Current data from the Central Electorate Commission indicate that Boyko Borissov's GERB party is poised to secure first place in Bulgaria's latest general election by a slim margin. This development was unexpected, as the "We Continue the Change" party, led by former Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, had been in the lead according to Sunday's exit polls.

However, by Monday morning, with 93% of the votes counted, GERB and United Democratic Forces were slightly ahead with 26.47% of the votes. Borissov was Bulgaria's prime minister for the majority of the time between 2009 and 2021, until nationwide protests erupted over his government's involvement in the country's rampant corruption.

Petkov's "We Continue the Change", which partnered with Democratic Bulgaria, trailed closely behind with 24.96% of the votes. The far-right, pro-Russian Revival party secured third place with 14.39% of the votes, its best result to date, followed by GERB's allies, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, primarily an ethnic Turkish party, with 12.96%.

The pro-Russian Bulgarian Socialist Party, which garnered 8.95% of the vote, and the "There Such a People" party, led by popular singer and former talk show host Slavi Trifonov, which won 4.16%, will also be represented in Parliament.

Petkov's alliance claimed victory in the capital, Sofia, securing 32.06% of the vote, 4% more than GERB. According to Alpha Research, voter turnout was a mere 40.5%, signaling voter fatigue due to the numerous elections. Since 2021, Bulgaria has held five general elections and a presidential race, totaling six elections. However, turnout was slightly higher than the previous general election in October, when it was 39.41%.

Contrary to claims that the pro-Russian, anti-Western far-right Revival party had peaked, the party has clearly strengthened its base since advocating against vaccinations in 2021 and recently campaigning for a referendum on the euro's adoption.

Revival leader Kostadin Kostadinov expressed gratitude to those who "chose freedom" on TV Sunday night, reiterating that his party would only support a cabinet in which Revival holds the mandate. He stated, "We're ready to offer a cabinet when we become the first power in the next elections."

The election results reemphasized current divisions in Bulgarian politics and do not offer a clear resolution to the ongoing political stalemate. However, there is some expectation that GERB and "We Continue the Change" might compromise to limit the influence of pro-Kremlin President Rumen Radev, who has expanded his influence through his series of interim cabinets, essentially opposing the government and parliament since the stalemate began.

Despite this, the two parties remain divided. In terms of party representation, the new parliament will closely resemble the one that began with Petkov's ascent in October 2021.

Another surprise was that Slavi Trifonov's "There's Such a People" party surpassed the 4% threshold and will enter parliament. The anti-establishment party, which won the July 2021 elections and was part of Petkov's short-lived coalition, had previously experienced internal conflicts and a loss of voters.

The electoral process, which involved paper ballots and machine voting, faced numerous challenges. On Sunday, authorities reported that over 144 people had been arrested on fraudulent voting charges, while over 756 reports of irregularities were received.

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