SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — A reformist coalition led by former Prime Minister Kiril Petkov is the likely winner of Bulgaria’s parliamentary election after exit poll results showed it placing first on Sunday.
The exit poll conducted by the Gallup International pollster showed the coalition between the We Continue the Change party and the right-wing Democratic Bulgaria with 25.6 %, apparently edging out the center-right GERB party ex-premier Boyko Borissov on 24.8 %.
Initial results are expected on Monday, but it could take days before the final official results are announced. If they confirm the exit poll, Petkov’s coalition will be handed a mandate to form a cabinet.
It looks, however, that it will be an uphill task for him to find allies to form a governing coalition in a fragmented parliament.
In their first comments, political analysts predicted that the results, which do not differ significantly from the previous four elections held within the last two years, could lead to a viable coalition and did not exclude the possibility of another election.
Bulgaria, which is the European Union’s poorest member, held its fifth general election in two years and political leaders hoped it would end government instability and provide a path to overcoming economic woes fueled by the war in Ukraine.
But a low voter turnout, estimated at 40 percent, shows the wide disillusionment with politicians who do not stick to promises to fight corruption and introduce reforms. Asked about a possible coalition with Borissov’s GERB party, the co-leader of Democratic Bulgaria, Hristo Ivanov, said that governing in a coalition requires a high degree of trust and mutual understanding. He added that he did not think a coalition with GERB met those conditions.
“We will be, rather, looking for a formula that is based on some kind of unity around specific priorities,” Ivanov said.
The other leg of the reformist coalition, the We Continue the Change party, has said it would also reject a coalition deal with GERB if Borissov remained at its helm.
We Continue the Change, which regards Borissov as a divisive figure and has accused him of promoting corrupt policies, proposed forming a minority government with the support of GERB, which rejected the idea.
After casting his ballot, Borissov said wisdom from politicians was the only way out of the crisis. He said Bulgaria must have a stable government “if we don’t want to commit suicide as a nation.”
“It will be a catastrophe for the country, if a ruling majority could not be formed,” Borissov said, adding that he was ready to compromise.
Borissov refused to comment on the initial results saying that he rather will wait for the official outcome of the vote.
Analysts predict that some compromise could be made, and the fierce opponents might find an alternative to the consecutive caretaker governments appointed by President Rumen Radev, a former military general, in the last few years that have quietly shifted the country’s orientation toward Russia.
Traditionally, many Bulgarians in this former communist nation share pro-Russia sentiments, which provides fertile soil for aggressive Kremlin propaganda and intelligence activity in the current NATO member country. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has dug deeper divisions in Bulgarian society, and fueled support for the pro-Moscow parties.
Exit polls indicate that the ultra-nationalist Vazrazhdane party, a strong opposition to any actions against Putin’s Russia, is widening its parliamentary presence from 10% to 14% of seats.
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