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Bulgaria - General Election - 04 April 2021

In Bulgaria regular parliamentary elections took place on 4 April 2021. The pre-election environment is marked by disillusionment and public mistrust in the political establishment. Women are generally underrepresented in public office. In the outgoing parliament women hold only 24 per cent of seats, and 7 out of 17 ministerial posts in the outgoing government. The political landscape, while being diverse, is dominated by the two major parties, GERB and BSP, alternating in the government for the past 15 years. A number of new parties and coalitions were established shortly before these elections.3 The pre-election environment is marked by disillusionment and public mistrust in the political establishment. Prolonged street protests started in July 2020 fuelled by allegations of corruption, lack of rule of law, and included requests for early parliamentary elections and the resignation of the prime minister and prosecutor general.

The diverse media landscape is dominated by two main television networks, bTV and Nova, that gather over 60 percent of the total television viewership. The public Bulgarian National Television (BNT) is the third most popular television network. The 2019 change of the end-owners of bTV and Nova, as well as the appointment of a new director of BNT was followed by a negative shift in the editorial policy of all three broadcasters. A number of senior editors and journalists left from all three television networks, citing pressure from the new management.

The last parliamentary elections, held on 26 March 2017, led to five parties being represented in the parliament. The Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party won 95 seats and formed a government in coalition with the United Patriots (UP) with 27 seats. The leader of GERB Boyko Borisov was re-elected as prime minister, and was now serving a third term. The opposition was formed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) with 80 seats, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) with 26 seats, and the right-wing party Volya with 12 seats.

At the elections 240 representatives/deputies in the Bulgarian National Assembly would be elected according to the proportional system with closed lists. In each of a total of 31 election units, between four and 16 representatives/ deputies depending on the size of the election unit would be elected. The election threshold is 4%. Previous elections in Bulgaria saw numerous cases of tampering with electoral rolls, election fraud, massive purchase of votes, unregistered voter ballots, extortion of votes from employees in (public) companies and public administration, modifications of voting protocols, declaring the ballots invalid, etc.

The political scene is marked by the conflict between Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and Bulgarian President Rumen Radev and the confrontation of the two leading political parties, the ruling conservative GERB party (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) and the opposition BSP (Bulgarian Socialist Party) party, which had supported President Radev at the presidential elections.

Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) is connected with mafia structures and is closer to the GERB, which also cultivates close relations with such structures and functions as a cartel, not as a political party. VMRO is the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, a Bulgarian irredentist revolutionary and political organization. GERB is striving to preserve the existing coalition of the GERB and VMRO with the support of the DPS, which mainly includes ethnic Turks. That is why the GERB is supporting the nationalist rhetoric of the VMRO and its controversial leader Krasimir Karakachanov, who is struggling to ensure that the party meets the 4% election threshold.

One of the new actors is the Democratic Bulgaria (DB) headed by Hristo Ivanov, who triggered massive protests in Bulgaria against corruption, oligarchs and the government. Democratic Bulgaria is against any coalition with political parties participating in the current convocation of the Bulgarian National Assembly. Specifically, GERB, BSP, DPS, Volya and VMRO.

The popular musician Slavi Trifonov is running for the first time with his party "There is such a people" (ITN). There is also Maya Manolova and her political movement Stand Up.BG (ISMV). The elections would also be the first for the "Republicans for Bulgaria" party (RzB) headed by Tsvetan Tsvetanov, former minister of internal affairs and close associate of Boyko Borissov.

Thousands of protesters called for long-ruling Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and his powerful top prosecutor to resign after investigators raided the offices of top presidential aides and detained others on 09 July 2020. The demonstrators included backers of an extraparliamentary opposition party outraged by special state security officers siding with a shadowy retired political leader in a dispute over public access to a small public beach on the Black Sea coast. Scenes of police striking and arresting demonstrators have fueled more protests, and a dizzying array of political attacks and counterattacks has followed.

On its face, the standoff pits Borisov against his rival, Radev, a former military general who has spent much of his three years as president trying to escape perceptions that he is pro-Moscow and clashing with Borisov and what he and others describe as "mafia-style" government. Borisov has accused the president of using "hate speech" and trying to profit from police bloodshed, while Radev said there was "only one way out of the current situation: the resignation of the government and the prosecutor-general."

But with such a wide array of grievances uniting protesters in the biggest round of public demonstrations against Bulgaria's status quo in seven years, some question whether Radev, whose presidential bid was supported by the Socialists, and other opponents of Borisov and his center-right GERB (Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria) party can stay united long enough to make a difference.

Initially it seemed that one of the main factors that would determine the spirit of the political 2020 in Bulgaria was that there are no regular elections during the year. From this point of view most analysts did not anticipate any particular political turmoil in the country during the year. It was envisaged that the ruling coalition would remain seemingly stable. This stability would not depend on the actions of the opposition political forces, the largest of which is the Bulgarian Socialist Party. It seemed that if the ruling coalition by some chance collapsed, it would be for internal reasons, not external ones.

However, the year 2019 had shown that the government did not enjoy mass trust of the Bulgarian citizens and it was gradually losing its popularity and positions. This was demonstrated by the results of the 2019 local elections, in which the GERB ruling party lost much of its previous positions in local government.

The political stability of the government had also been shaken by criticism it endured on the part of Brussels. The ruling party GERB faced criticism from the EU about the lack of any progress in reforming the judiciary and might lose even more votes if the country did not get a green light to join the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM2). The government set April 30, 2020 as a new target date for joining ERM2, seen as the Eurozone so called “waiting room”. The European Central Bank (ECB) said July 10 that the two countries would also join the EU’s banking union, with the ECB directly supervising their largest banks from October 1.

The seeming stability of the ruling coalition did not mean a year without political tension. The level of tensions and clashes between the government and the opposition of 2019 remained. According to all political analyses, there were no indications about the any possibility for early elections during 2020.

The key factor that determined the positions and behavior of the main political forces in the country in 2020 was the aspiration to hold as many and good starting positions as possible for the regular and most important for the country parliamentary elections to be held in 2021. From this point of view, 2020 was defined as a period of electoral calm before the storm. Actually this meant that, despite the lack of elections, all political forces would launch an active election campaign that would be fought on all fronts precisely because the end of the term of the Boyko Borisov government wss approaching and the parliamentary elections in 2021 were coming soon.

For the government, 2020 would be a watershed year that would make clear how successful this governmental term was, and also the year that would remain most fresh impressions in the minds of the voters when they go to vote in 2021. From this point of view, the purpose of the government would be to continue and proceed with the achievements of the set goals in the fields of education, health, social affairs and justice throughout the year. Among them, the implementation of infrastructure projects that are usually most visible to the voters when deciding whom to cast their vote with, would be of major importance.

It is no coincidence that at the end of 2019, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov repeatedly emphasized the large-scale infrastructure construction that was to come in 2020. Some of these projects that needed to be built were some very important parts of the so called “Hemus” Motorway, as well as the overall construction of the so called “Europe” Motorway. Despite its few kilometers, its implementation would have a great impact on the public because of the intense traffic passing through it. Other important infrastructure projects are the two vertical roads, connecting Northern Bulgaria with “Hemus” Highway – the Vidin-Botevgrad expressway and the Ruse-Veliko Turnovo expressway. Construction of the third subway line in Sofia would also be completed and a new extension may be launched. The start and at least partial realization of these grand scale infrastructure projects aim to make 2020 a successful year for the Government.

In addition to the infrastructure projects, the government had another major task and it is to prevent the emergence of large-scale and prolonged protests that generate public negativism. Another important aim of the government would be to prevent the emergence of new scandals that have caused serious political turmoil last year, most notably in the leading GERB party.

As for the political opposition, 2020 would be a year of regrouping and seeking new opportunities to destabilize the Government. The condition of the main opposition force in the face of the Bulgarian Socialist Party is quite difficult and unstable from the view point of its internal political situation.

The 2019 BSP election results showed that the victory in the 2017 presidential election was more the merit of a majority vote than a party uprising. Cornelia Ninova’s leadership had been called into question by a number of old and influential party members and the party itself is divided into two factions. The 2020 year would be a turning point for the Bulgarian Socialist Party and would depend entirely on internal party processes. This would predetermine the answer to the question of whether the BSP would enter in 2021 election year stronger and stable or its decline would continue, which created the risk that the party may become the third parliamentary political force in Bulgaria.

The key issue for the BSP was one of leadership. In April 2020, within the party took place elections for a new leader. According to the BSP statute, “the chairman of the National Council cannot be elected for more than two consecutive full terms” – Cornelia Ninova would end her first term as party leader and had the right to run again. At the same time, Ninova encountered strong internal party opposition, which defines her as an incompetent and weak leader and wants her eliminated.

The situation with GERB’s opposition in the face of the other right-wing party coalition in the country called “Democratic Bulgaria”, did not suggest a major change in 2020. In numbers, their supporters were not numerous, but at the same time this political force is extremely active, vociferous and aggressive towards the ruling party coalition and its government. This was a serious precondition for joining in various coalition plans in order to cross the 4% barrier to entry in the future parliament.

Last but not least, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms should be noted. Their goal in the 2020 was to find possible new future coalition partners for the next parliament in order to avoid a recurrence of the political isolation situation they were facing in 2017. With the scandals surrounding GERB, new political projects have found some room to develop. Although their support is not that significant, three have potential to develop in the coming years and enter the next parliament.

The “Democratic Bulgaria” coalition of three parties that strongly criticise Borissov’s politics, gained enough votes to send one MEP to the European Parliament in May 2019, and won almost half of the mayoral positions in the Sofia districts and several in the bigger cities too in the October local election. The coalition is seen as a potentially significant factor in the next parliament.

Another political party that could attract support was showman Slavi Trifonov’s “No Such State”, as Bulgarians have a history of backing charismatic individuals. Trifonov could gather support from the large number of Bulgarians who tend to seek a strong leader to follow and have been disappointed in the past. The same recipe as that offered by Trifonov has been used by Borissov himself and, before him, by Simeon Borisov Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Bulgaria’s last monarch before the communist era who served as prime minister between 2001 and 2005. Now that Borissov’s appeal as a man of the people seems to be fading away, some of his followers are looking around for a new leader with similar qualities and characteristics using the same populist rhetoric. However, while some analysts believe that Trifonov could take around 15% of the vote in the 2021 general election, others consider his moment to enter politics might have passed.

Another project that may be able to break the status quo was the pressure group created by Maya Manolova. A former member of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and former ombudsman, she narrowly lost the race for Sofia mayor in October 2019. Manolova claims she would not turn her civil project into a political party, but analysts believe she could decide to join the race for the next parliament.

At personal level in 2020, an even more intense confrontation is expected between Bulgarian President Rumen Radev and Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. The president became a major opposition to the ruling party, taking over the functions of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and their leader Cornelia Ninova. If the BSP did not reform and stabilize its positions in 2020, Radev would continue to step up his role as an opposition leader in a shadows to fill the vacuum left by the leadership of the Socialist Party. Borisov, for his part, would do everything possible not to enter into direct conflict with Radev because there is no benefit in attracting additional attention to the president. The confrontation between the two would intensify.

Bulgaria’s political life would be far from quiet during this last year of third-time government of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. Although his GERB party was still on top of the polls, the EU and local elections in 2019 showed that it is losing support. Several major scandals have shaken the party and cost the political careers of ministers and top party members. So although 2020 is not an election year in Bulgaria, parties would be positioning themselves ahead of the term elections due to take place by May 2021 which basically means a year of new political tensions, scandals and clashes as well as political regrouping of the parties awaiting the major political clash in 2021.

The early summer was marked by thunderous reshuffling within the ranks of the ruling oligarchy and businessmen close to them, leading to the fall from grace of Vassil Bozhkov, one of the richest gambling, tourism and construction bosses in Bulgaria, followed by a full-blown turf war which spilled over into the public sphere in the shape of leaks. Candid photographs of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov sleeping in his bedroom next to a drawer packed full of 500-euro bills, gold bars and a gun were leaked to the media. The prime minister did not deny the authenticity of the pictures but claimed the money was planted. Thousands of Bulgarians, frustrated with endemic corruption, began protesting 08 July 2020, demanding the resignation of the center-right government of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and the country's chief prosecutor. Protesters, who chanted "Mafia" and "Resign" on Saturday, accuse Borissov's third government and chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev of deliberately delaying investigations into links between graft-prone officials and local oligarchs.

The liberals and the left had always defined themselves in vitriolic mutual opposition to each other, but it seems that GERB and their junior coalition partners from the far right achieved the unachievable - uniting literally everybody against them. The protests voiced three main demands: the resignation of the ruling coalition and the chief prosecutor, early elections and then judicial reform through constitutional amendments.

Anti-government protesters occupied two key crossroads in downtown Sofia on 30 July 2020, vowing to block traffic until the conservative government they accuse of corruption resigns. Thousands of people have rallied for over three weeks in the Bulgarian capital and other cities in the poor EU member's biggest protest wave since 2013-14. Protesters have set up several tents on Eagles Bridge, one of Sofia's busiest downtown crossroads, as well as on a major intersection outside the government headquarters.

Anti-government protesters in Bulgaria have restored their traffic blockades in downtown Sofia, less than a day after they were removed by police. Some 5,000 protesters gathered in the capital for a 30th consecutive evening on August 7, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's conservative government over corruption. The protesters had occupied three major crossroads in downtown Sofia since July 29 and August 1 as part of the biggest protest wave in years in the EU's poorest country. Blockades had also been set up in Plovdiv and the Black Sea port of Varna, severely disrupting traffic. Police moved to remove the protesters’ tents on August 7 and warned that no more blockades would be tolerated.

The deepening political crisis comes after a series of major political scandals in recent months and amid growing public anger against the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. After Bulgaria saw a slump in daily cases during a two-month lockdown, the sudden opening up of businesses and the permission to hold public gatherings have led to a new spike in cases. Analysts say the roots of the present crisis run deep and have to do with the country's weak rule of law and the problematic relationship between oligarchy and politics.

In an opinion poll released by Sova 5 in early July 2020, before protests erupted, just 28.5 percent of the respondents said they trust Prime Minister Borisov; 31.9 percent said they trust President Radev. If there were to be early elections, Borisov's GERB party, which has led three governments in Bulgaria since 2009, would get 21.3 percent of the vote, Radev's BSP 12 percent, DPS five percent, and Democratic Bulgaria 2.4 percent, the poll suggested. Borisov's current coalition partner, the far-right alliance United Patriots, may not clear the 4 percent threshold at the next election. Other options may include, "There is such a people", a new party established by popular talk show host Slavi Trifonov, whose support currently stands at 5 percent.

After more than a month of protests calling for his resignation, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has called for the convening of a grand national assembly to consider and adopt a new constitution. “It is time not only to change the political system but to restart the country,” Borisov said in a televised address on 14 August 2020, noting that the current constitution had been adopted “in a different historical period for different political circumstances.”

Borisov also said he is prepared to step down as soon as parliament sets a date for new elections. The elections are currently set for March 2021. The prime minister said the ruling GERB party had already drafted a new constitution that called for reducing the number of parliament deputies from 240 to 120 and overhauling the judiciary to make it more independent, while also boosting the accountability of prosecutors and judges. Two-thirds of parliament would be required to approve the convocation of a grand national assembly.

Protesters, who accuse the government of corruption and undermining state institutions, issued a statement calling Borisov’s proposal “yet another attempt to win time.” Thousands of protesters have been gathering regularly in central Sofia since the beginning of July calling for Borisov and chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev to step down.

Thousands of Bulgarians rallied in front of the parliament in Sofia on 02 September 2020 in one of the biggest protests so far in two months of demonstrations calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. Tensions rose in the late hours after some protesters threw over 100 small bombs and firecrackers at police. Officers brought a water cannon and cordoned off the square in front of the parliament. Some 60 people were arrested, police said. The rally took place on the first sitting of parliament after summer recess. Protesters called it the “Grand National Uprising” in response the government’s plan for a new constitution.

On September 2, the two-month-long anti-governmental protests in Bulgaria entered the most violent stage to date. In the evening some protesters, thought to be paid provocateurs, started throwing small fireworks at the police, which eventually provoked a violent response, as officers launched into the crowd, beating people with batons. For the first time, the police deployed water cannon, tear gas and pepper spray, marking the end of the relatively peaceful phase in protesting that made Bulgaria such an outlier in Europe in this regard.

Borissov had pledged to resign if parliament approved his call for the election of a grand national assembly that would vote on a new constitution that should improve the independence of the judiciary and halve the number of deputies. In parliament, President Rumen Radev called for the resignation of Borissov’s centre-right government and appealed to deputies to dismiss plans for a new constitution. “It was not the lack of new constitution that brought the people on the streets, but the lack of morality in the leadership, the erosion of statehood and the corruption,” he said.

The Bulgarian elite is deeply divided and warring factions wield their power over the state as a weapon against their competitors. These intra-class clashes sometimes spill over from the "backroom" via the incessant stream of corruption scandals, leaked photos and recordings, surprise arrests of businessmen who fall out of favor, and even the nationalisation of private businesses. But the violent change of positions within the ruling elite and the elimination of competitors erodes the state.

By late 2020 Seven formations had chances of being in the next National Assembly with five of them being certain at this moment. These are some of the conclusions from the national representative survey carried out by Gallup International between 30 July and 7 August 2020. Both GERB and BSP were losing their positions, while Slavi Trifonov’s party was the main beneficiary from the ongoing processes – he met growing support, which equaled 7.9%. The “Movement for Rights and Freedoms” remains in its traditional range around 7%. “Democratic Bulgaria” scored 5.7% which is two to three times higher result than its traditional levels. Among “Democratic Bulgaria”, “Yes, Bulgaria” met the most distinctly increasing support. Maya Manolova’s new formation had developed, and gained 2.4% or around 130 thousand votes. “United Patriots” also scores 2.3% (VMRO is the most visible). This is around the potential threshold for entering the National Assembly. “Volya” was close to the main formation with 1.6%. This detail is significant considering the extremely dynamic situation. Among the other formations, noticeable are “Alternative for Bulgarian Revival” (0.6%), “Glas naroden” (Voice of the people) (0.4%), etc. “Ataka”, “Vazrazhdane” (“National revival”), the projects of Tsvetan Tsvetanov and Vasil Bozhkov are currently gaining 0.2% support.

Five political formations would most surely enter the next parliament and 2 were near the threshold. This is what a survey by sociological agency "Trend" commissioned by "24 Chasa" newspaper and conducted in the period 12-19 February 2021, showed. 47% of respondents said they would use their right to vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections. The distance between the leading parties - GERB and BSP, had been increasing slightly and GERB received support from 28.9% of respondents, while BSP had 24.1%. "There Is Such a People" kept third place with 12.9%. The MRF followed with 11.1%. According to the poll, Democratic Bulgaria was the fifth safe participant in the next parliament with 6.2%. "Stand UP! Thugs Out!” and VMRO were at the threshold of entering the National Assembly.

The campaign, prominent mostly in the media and online, commenced on 05 March 2021 and centered around issues of corruption, the judiciary, economy and COVID-19 pandemic. Following the call of elections, the government announced several extraordinary budgetary allocations which some ODIHR LEOM interlocutors perceived as financial incentives to the electorate. Several ODIHR LEOM interlocutors alleged that long-standing practices of vote-buying and ‘organized’ voting is still attempted in economically and socially vulnerable communities, particularly impacting Roma.

Five political formations are sure to enter the Parliament, while two are on the verge, show data from a survey, commissioned by the 24 Chassa daily newspaper and conducted by the Trend polling agency face-to-face among 1,004 adults between 9 and 14 March 2021. The GERB-UDF coalition remained a leader with 28.8 per cent of respondents saying they would vote for them. The Bulgarian Socialist Party ranks second with a little over 5 per cent behind their main opponents. The third place was contested, as the difference is small between Ima Takuv Narod [There Is Such a People] with 12.7 per cent and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) with 12.1 percent. Democratic Bulgaria was the fourth certain participant in the next Parliament with 5.9 per cent of support from respondents, who said they would vote. Izpravi Se! Mutri Vun! [Rise Up! Thugs Out!] and VMRO remained on the verge of the parliamentary barrier with 4.1 per cent and 4 per cent of voter support. The remaining political formations were under the 4 percent threshold that would ensure them representation in the next National Assembly.

GERB’s showing in April was its worst ever, coming months after a summer of mass protests over graft and amid calls for Borisov’s government to resign. The party’s support has continued to sag amid fresh scandals. The largely technocratic interim government formed in May by President Rumen Radev, who has tense ties with Borisov, has drawn attention to cases of alleged corruption and abuse of power under the previous GERB-led government, damaging the party’s already battered image. In perhaps the biggest bombshell allegation, interim Interior Minister Boyko Rashkov backed opposition claims that Borisov’s government eavesdropped on other parties ahead of the April elections. Other interim officials have accused Borisov’s government of awarding contracts worth more than $5 billion over just the past two years without a competitive process. They have also claimed that large sums of money for government contracts went to a handful of companies.

GERB is forecast to win from 20.3 to 21.5 percent of the vote, according to polling data from Alpha Research and Gallup International, respectively, a drop of as much as 6 percentage points from April. Meanwhile, There Is Such A People is expected to win from 21.3 to 21.8 percent, according to the same two polling agencies, an increase of more than 3 percentage points from the April election. But even if they do post stronger results than in April, GERB’s opponents may still fail to form a government following the vote, analysts said, triggering yet another snap election in the autumn.

There Is Such A People is expected to win from 21.3 to 21.8 percent, according to the same two polling agencies. Democratic Bulgaria and Stand Up! Get Out! are expected to win about 12 and 5.4 percent of the vote, respectively, according to Alpha Research, giving the three parties around 40 percent combined. That would still force Trifonov to win over members of other political organizations, such as the Socialist Party and the largely ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom, to form a so-called “floating” majority government. Bulgaria's new antiestablishment party, There Is Such A People (TSN), said 26 April 2021 that it would not try to form a government, increasing the odds that the southeastern EU member would hold fresh elections. The announcement came after the center-right GERB party of longtime Prime Boyko Borisov recognized on April 23 that it had failed to form a government after coming first in parliamentary elections with just 26 percent of the vote. TSN, led by television personality Slavi Trifonov, took second place in the elections with 18 percent of the vote by tapping into frustration with endemic corruption and poverty. Two other antiestablishment parties also made gains. Trifonov said his party does not have the necessary number of deputies or partners to form a stable government and would not accept support from the traditional parties that it blames for Bulgaria’s problems. "The support offered is from political entities that are harmful, greedy, and proven to be compromised. And this is not their support, but dependence," he said.

Bulgaria would head to the polls 11 July 2021 after the Socialists became the third political party to refuse to lead a government following last month’s parliamentary election. The Socialists’ decision comes after the centre-right GERB party of outgoing, three-time Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and the new anti-establishment ITN party, led by TV host and singer Slavi Trifonov, both gave up on attempts to form a government. The Socialists, who lost almost half of their seats in the April 4 election, said 01 May 2021 it would be impossible to build a working majority in a fragmented parliament and would return the mandate immediately after the president hands it to them on May 5. President Rumen Radev faces having to dissolve parliament, appoint an interim administration and call snap polls within two months – most likely on July 11.

Bulgaria’s National Assembly passed at second reading on 29 April 2021 a bill of amendments to the country’s Electoral Code, implementing a number of changes to the election process, which would go into effect ahead of the snap parliamentary polls. Several provisions in the bill prompted lengthy and heated debates, starting with the amendment that would make it easier to open more voting stations outside the country, as well as removing the limit of no more than 35 voting stations for countries outside the European Union.

Bulgarian caretaker Prime Mnister Stefan Yanev officially took office 12 May 2021, saying the main priority of his government would be to uphold the rule of law and ensure the fairness of the upcoming snap parliamentary elections. "Honest and responsible work by the government can at least partially restore the lost trust in state institutions," Yanev said during his inauguration ceremony. It would be "absolutely uncompromising" against any attempted vote violations, Yanev said. “Integrity, transparency, professionalism," would be the motto of his cabinet, he added.

Two polls published on July 8 indicate that There Is Such A People, a party recently created by popular late-night talk show host and folk-pop singer Slavi Trifonov, could edge out Borisov’s GERB party by as much as 1 percentage point in the July 11 elections. Growing popular frustration with corruption and low living standards is taking its toll on Borisov and GERB. Despite economic growth that exceeded 3 percent in five of the past six years, Bulgaria remains the poorest EU nation and is perceived as the most corrupt.

No clear winner emerged from Bulgaria’s parliamentary election, exit polls showed, with the center-right GERB party of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov narrowly ahead of the new anti-elite party There Is Such a People (ITN). Surveys by Gallup International and Alpha Research showed GERB at 22.1 percent to 23.5 percent, and ITN, led by popular TV host and singer Slavi Trifonov, on 21.5 percent to 22.3 percent in the election, Bulgaria’s second in three months. Even if official results confirm GERB as the largest party its chances of forging a ruling coalition are slim, political observers said.

With 99.5 percent of the ballots counted on July 13, ITN had notched over 24 percent of the vote, an insurmountable lead and an increase of more than 6 percentage points over the inconclusive April 4 elections. With roughly 23.5 percent, a drop of more than 2 percentage points from April, GERB failed to come out on top in national parliamentary elections for the first time in its history. GERB’s ratings have been sliding since last summer, when thousands of people took to the streets to protest against rampant corruption and call on Borisov’s government to resign.

As the results came in, Trifonov could have gotten to work seeking to cobble together a majority coalition by joining forces with two other former opposition parties and seeking support from other groups, leaving Borisov’s GERB party isolated and weakened. But in his first announcement following the July 11 vote, Trifonov proposed a new government without the input of any other party, a highly unusual move that could lead to failure and trigger the country's third parliamentary elections this year. The showman may be betting he could win an even greater percentage of the votes in another snap election, bolstering his power and decreasing reliance on other parties. But they warned that the move could backfire -- and open the door for Borisov's party to regain the top position.

New Parliamentary Elections - November 2021

Bulgaria headed to new parliamentary elections after the anti-establishment party that narrowly won the July 2021 vote gave up efforts to form a government. Bulgaria will hold its third parliamentary election since April on November 14, President Rumen Radev announced 11 September 2021. Following months of deadlock, Bulgarians are set to once again choose a new parliament after neither of the three largest parties was able to secure a majority government after an election in July. Radev announced that presidential elections will be held on the same day to save money. He is hoping to secure his second term in November.

President Rumen Radev called the July 2021 parliamentary elections in April, when no one was able to put together a government with majority support in the legislature. In the July 11 elections, There Is Such A People [ITN] won only 65 seats in Bulgaria's fragmented 240-seat parliament.

The GERB party of the previous prime minister, Boyko Borisov, which holds 63 parliamentary seats said it would not try to form a government. The other parties in parliament do not have enough seats to do so.

Slavi Trifonov, leader of ITN, said on 10 August 2021 that the party decided not to propose a government after two apparently sympathetic protest parties said they would not support it. "We will not present our proposed cabinet for a vote [of confidence in parliament], as we have clearly declared that we will not be presenting a cabinet without the support" of Democratic Bulgaria and a group called Stand Up, BG! We are coming!," he said. Trifonov said that his party would not support any other party that might try to form a government, meaning that the country is "heading toward new elections." But a new election would most likely reproduce the original position in order to experience the whole circus once again.

Yasen Boyadzhiev commente that "A group of dilettantes who jumped into the field of politics with the claim to save the nation, with confidence to the skies, but without any cover, with unwavering narcissistic but somewhat infantile self-confidence failed to form a clear and relatively stable parliamentary majority of change and made support for possible and allies impossible. They achieved this by systematically humiliating and blackmailing them with their arrogant behavior. They refused to make firm written commitments to a specific political agenda. They were sent a list of candidates for minister for approval, who, with some exceptions, impress mainly with their lack of experience and clear citizenship. In fact, in any publicly defended position on any important public issue. With more than dubious expertise, not to mention a vision. Among them are some frankly inadequate, caricatured and scandalous people. All this shone especially clearly against the background of some of the ministers in the current caretaker government".

President 20 October - 30 November 2021

Date not confirmed, but the election is expected to be held by November 2021. It is likely to be on the first Sunday in November. Should no candidate win more than 50 percent of the vote at the first round, a second round would be held a week later. The president of Bulgaria is elected by absolute majority popular vote for a 5-year term. Bulgaria has gone through several political stages in its complicated history from the pro-Soviet communist years to becoming a member of the European Union following the end of the Cold War. Voters had shifted to anti-establishment parties like the ‘There is Such a People’ party and Democratic Bulgaria.

The Bulgarian Socialist Party’s national council voted on April 17 to endorse Roumen Radev for a second term as the country’s President. Radev, was elected head of state on a ticket backed by the BSP in November 2016. Radev ran as an independent candidate but was supported by Bulgarian Socialist Party and Alternative for Bulgarian Revival, founded by former president and Socialist Party member Georgi Parvanov. Radev won after polling 25.44 per cent of the vote in round one and then 59.37 per cent in the runoff with ruling centre-right GERB candidate Tsetska Tsacheva.

In August and September 2020, thousands of Bulgarians took to the streets to protest against the government and its policies. Protestors shook the country with demands for the immediate resignation of PM Boyko Borisov’s cabinet. President of the Republic Rumen Radev sided with the protestors. As clashes protract, people get used to them and infighting inevitably becomes ‘normal’. At the same time, extension and normalisation may lead to institutionalisation, with the risk of systemic President-PM rivalries. In Bulgaria there were now not just two personalities facing each other. There was a clash between the two mightiest institutions of the executive branch. Under these circumstances, the situation may easily overheat. Parliamentary elections may confirm GERB in power and either Radev or a like-minded figure could win the presidential contest. Then, Bulgaria could become much more unstable and polarised, with risks for economic recovery.

The leader of "There is such a people" [ITN] Slavi Trifonov in an extremely short statement on the party television "Seven Eights" announced ITN "will support Rumen Radev in the upcoming presidential elections in the autumn".

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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 13:49:12 ZULU