Sofia (Bulgaria) (AFP)
Bulgarians vote on Sunday to elect a new parliament with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s center-right party expected to finish first, but may struggle to find coalition partners amid low turnout forecasts amid fears of ‘a pandemic.
Support for Borisov’s GERB party – in power almost continuously for nearly a decade now – has been eroded by a series of scandals, with protests last summer accusing the government of protecting the oligarchs.
However, polls on the eve of the election give the GERB 28-29% of the vote, or around 75-76 seats in the 240-seat legislature.
Triple Prime Minister Borisov has refused all contact with the media since the protests.
Instead, he posts his unannounced campaign visits to the countryside on social media under the slogan “Work, work, work!”.
“It is the lack of an alternative due to the fragmented and unconvincing opposition that explains the hegemony of the GERB,” said political scientist Antony Todorov.
Up to six other parties are expected to win seats in parliament, he said, making it difficult to form the next cabinet.
– Pandemic fears –
Fears of infection amid a third wave of coronavirus that fill hospitals in the EU’s poorest country to the brim may well push participation rates down, analysts have said.
The number of voters will be one of the most closely watched aspects of the election and will likely define the strength in the legislature of the new faces that have emerged from the protests.
About 40% of the 6.7 million eligible voters will run on Sunday, according to research institute Alpha.
Virus fears could impact the outcome of key opposition Socialists in particular, whose older electorate is more likely to abstain.
With 20 to 22 percent of the expected votes, the Socialist Party is expected to collect 54 to 56 seats.
A new populist group, There is a such a Nation, led by Slavi Trifonov, a sharp-tongued talk show host and Boris critic, is third with around 13% and 33-34 seats.
Just behind them is the Turkish Minority Party for Rights and Freedoms, a traditional kingmaker in several governments, with over 12% and 33-34 seats.
Two other formations will specifically target the votes of those who joined the protests last summer.
The Bulgarian democratic right-wing coalition, whose leader encouraged the demonstrations, and the group Stand up! Mafia out! The left-wing coalition, close to President Rumen Radev, is expected to garner five to six percent of the vote and end up with 13 to 17 lawmakers each.
The current partners of the GERB governing coalition – the nationalist party VMRO, which will most likely manage to cross the four percent threshold to enter parliament after an aggressive campaign of anti-Roma, anti-LGBT and anti-North Macedonian rhetoric , come to the back
Polling stations open at 7:00 a.m. (04:00 GMT) and close at 8:00 p.m. (5:00 p.m. GMT) or no later than 9:00 p.m., if there are queues. Exit polls are expected shortly thereafter.
The first partial official results, usually expected late Sunday evening, could be delayed due to the introduction of automatic voting with the usual ballot voting in the majority of large polling stations.
The central electoral committee is due to release the full official results by Thursday.
© 2021 AFP