The party of Bulgaria’s long-serving leader Boyko Borisov came first in national elections on Sunday, giving him an edge to form a government for a fourth term as prime minister, according to exit polls as quoted by ft.com on Monday.
However, Borisov, who leads the EU’s poorest and most corrupt state, according to Transparency International, may struggle to form a coalition because rival parties have pledged not to join a government led by him.
Borisov’s Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria party (Gerb) won 25.7 per cent in Sunday’s vote, according to an exit poll conducted by the Alpha Research pollster for BNT public television.
That result is significantly less than the 33.5 percent it garnered four years ago, and the party looks set to lose the capital Sofia for the first time in 15 years.
The opposition Socialists won 17.6 per cent, less than expected. A new party called There Is Such a People, led by Stanislav Trifonov, a populist talk-show host who campaigned on rule of law issues, came in third, with 15 per cent.
A different survey, by the Sofia-based Gallup International, put Trifonov, who had previously ruled out forming a coalition with either Gerb or the Socialists, in second place.
Borisov may struggle to form a government because, of the seven parties that look set to enter parliament, three are openly anti-Gerb. The opposition grew out of a protest movement this past summer against Borisov, prosecutor-general Ivan Geshev and links to businessmen such as politician Delyan Peevski.
“The current status quo is not possible any more, which is a partial victory of last summer’s protest,” Vessela Tcherneva of the Sofia office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said of the results.
Observers said the process of forming a government would be time-consuming, and that another election was possible. Delays could hit Bulgaria’s ability to tap into a tranche of EU recovery funds and derail its plans to join the eurozone in 2024 and apply to the Schengen travel area.