Bulgarians vote for change, send three new parties to Parliament

Showman Slavi Trifonov. His force "There is such a people" surprisingly emerged second at the 4 April 2021 elections. [Dnevnik]

Bulgaria’s election on Sunday (4 April) saw three new parties, largely representing the anti-corruption protests of last summer, enter parliament. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s ruling conservative GERB remained the strongest single party but with slim chances of forming a government and staying in power.

According to preliminary official results, Borissov’s coalition (GERB-SDS) came out on top, but with only 23.78% of the votes. For comparison, in the 2017 elections, GERB won 33% of the vote.

Second came “There is such a people”, a new force led by TV showman Slavi Trifonov, with 19.03%. The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) finished third with a disappointing 14.85%, after having bragged publicly in recent days that they would win the election.

Next came Democratic Bulgaria with 11.05%, a centre-right opposition force hostile to Borissov, while the fifth was the mainly ethnic Turkish Movement of Rights and Freedoms (DPS) with 8.92% and the sixth “Stand up, Mafia out”, a new centre-left force, with 5.2%.

According to the preliminary results, the nationalist VMRO of Deputy Prime Minister Krassimir Karakachanov, which was a junior party to GERB, did not manage to pass the 4% threshold.

According to analysts, the elections represented a slap in the face of the political establishment in the outgoing parliament,  particularly for Borissov’s GERB and its arch-enemy BSP.  The vote kicked out of parliament two nationalist parties – VMRO and that of businessman Vesselin Mareshki in coalition with Valeri Simeonov’s NFSB party.

Conversely, the big surprise is the success of Slavi Trifonov’s party “There is such a people” which is likely to obtain a mandate to form a government. According to Bulgaria’s constitution, the force that won the elections will try first to form a government, but it is very unlikely that Borissov could gather enough support to build a ruling majority.

Trifonov’s party has said they would form a coalition with the other two forces that emerged from the protests: Democratic Bulgaria, led by pro-European reformist politician Hristo Ivanov, and “Stand up, Mafia out”, led by former national Ombudsman Maya Manolova.

However, they seem not to have enough seats among them for a majority in the 240-seat parliament.

Manolova’s is the only among the three forces to admit the possibility of entering in coalition with BSP.

Trifonov, who was the most sought-after politician on election night, announced on Facebook that he has COVID symptoms and would self-isolate.

His party, compared by some to Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement, was absent from election debates and aired its messages on Trifonov’s own TV channel. “There is such a people” campaigned for changing the current proportional system to majoritarian, and for the wide use of referendums.

Borissov issued a statement calling for a unity government, for which he offered his expertise. BSP, reeling from their poor election showing, said they would comment only after the official results are announced.

“We are starting to see the shape of a new Bulgaria”, Hristo Ivanov said, adding that he expects all forces who said that they would not enter in coalition with GERB to confirm this, before starting exploratory talks for a new government.

The main part of the votes of Bulgarians abroad went to Trifonov’s party and to Democratic Bulgaria. Only 8% of the Bulgarians abroad voted for Borissov.

The Brief, powered by bp – Dress rehearsal elections

As Bulgarians are gearing up for a general election on Sunday (4 April), the crucial issue – or risk, for some – is whether Boyko Borissov, who has run the poorest EU country with small interruptions since 2009, will get another mandate.

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