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Bulgaria - General Election - 26 Mar 2017

Bulgarian society seems to be hopelessly split, with the pro-EU GERB and Russia-friendly Socialists almost equal in their political strength. Bulgaria does not have any purely Eurosceptic party; the Bulgarian Socialists do not reject membership in the EU or NATO. But they do also talk about the need to mend relations with Russia.

According to the exit poll of the Alpha Research sociological agency, the new parliament will consist of six political forces. The party which ruled until recently GERB - took 32.2% of the votes, while its major opponent the Bulgarian Socialist Party - took 28.1%. The third political force in the next Bulgarian Parliament would be the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) with 9.7%. The fourth political force is the coalition of United Patriots with 9.5%. The newly registered party Volya of businessman Mareshki is fifth with 5.1% of the votes; sixth with 4% is the rightist coalition Reformist Bloc.

GERB would obtain 86-88 seats in Parliament, the BSP 75-77, the MRF 25-27. The United Patriots would have 25-27 MPs, Volya 13-15; the Reformist bloc would take 10-11 seats. Forming a coalition government from these results will prove challenging. GERB has ruled out a coalition with the Socialists under any circumstances. Any coalition that is created will likely to prove fragile and unworkable, meaning new elections may be just around the corner. GERB would have to choose between the United Patriots and the pro-Turkish DPS. The second option is more realistic, but Borisov would also have to consider the poor state of relations between Brussels and Ankara.

The Democrats for Unity, Solidarity and Tolerance (DOST), a DPS breakaway which caused an uproar in the Balkan country following revelations that Turkish officials were openly agitating for it, got about 2.8% of the vote, failing to make it into the new parliament.

Bulgarias new president Rosen Plevneliev on 24 January 2017 called an early national election for 26 March and appointed a former parliamentary speaker as caretaker prime minister until then. Ognyan Gerdzhikov, 70, currently a professor of law and head of an arbitration court, served as speaker of parliament in a centrist government from 2001 to 2005 and is now the Eastern European countrys interim prime minister. Radev had to call an early election after Bulgarias center-right government resigned in late 2016 following the defeat of its candidate in the presidential election. Radev will dissolve the parliament at the end of the week.

The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), successor to the Communist Party, said they will improve ties with Russia even if it meant upsetting the country's European Union partners. The Kremlin's most loyal satellite during the Cold War era, Bulgaria remained a popular holiday destination for Russians attracted by its Black Sea beaches and low prices.

A survey by independent pollster Alpha Research showed GERB winning 31.7 percent of the vote on Sunday and the Socialists 29.1 percent. The poll was conducted on 20-22 March 2017. This election might give Bulgaria the chance to form a stable government again. But Bulgaria will most likely have another fragile and diverse coalition government that will struggle to push ahead with reforms to spur growth and combat corruption. The last few years were not a good era in Bulgarian politics, with three resigned cabinets and three transitional governments in the last three years. This was some kind of unfortunate record in the Balkans.

The centrist Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MDL) represents mostly Bulgaria's 700,000-strong Turkish minority, a legacy of centuries of Ottoman rule. The party was expected to garner between 8 and 11 percent of the vote. It was critical of Turkey and its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who they say had "abandoned" the values of Ataturk, modern Turkey's founder.

In 2016 a splinter more pro-Ankara group split off and formed a new party, Dost. Turkey has openly supported it, creating a rift with its neighbour. The Turkish ambassador in Sofia made an appearance during a campaign rally organized by one of the Turkish parties in Bulgaria (the DOST party), whose views are akin to those of the AKP and President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan. On that account, the ambassador was summoned - this was regarded as meddling with Bulgarian internal affairs.

A new nationalist grouping, the United Patriots, has jumped on this spat with Turkey to boost its support, while railing against migrants, Muslims, Roma and gay people. Opinion polls in the European Union's poorest country, where the average monthly salary is only 500 euros ($540) and corruption is rife, indicated a strong showing by the nationalist United Patriots, who were tipped to come third.

The parliamentary election, Bulgarias third since 2013, was unlikely to produce a strong majority government able to implement the judicial, economic and other reforms the country needs. None of the parties is expected to win an outright majority, which will result in a fragmented parliament and another fragile coalition government.

There was a stalemate situation between the two major parties, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and Boiko Borisov's GERB (a member of the European People's Party), which had run the country until recently. This was a challenge as both said they don't want to govern with each other. So the question is, how can a government be formed?

The main problems that the new Bulgarian government must tackle haven't changed. First on the list is the fight against corruption and organized crime, along with continuing the reform of the judicial system. Simultaneously, Bulgaria has to regain trust, and this applies to the economic sector as well. In 2016, foreign investment in Bulgaria plummeted by 60 percent, which indicated that there was a confidence gap on European markets when it came to Bulgaria. Moreover, this view was shared by Bulgarian business representatives as well. Therefore it would be very important to restore that confidence.





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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 12:05:45 ZULU