Voters will vote in Bulgaria for the second time in three months this weekend after no party received enough support to form a government in April’s parliamentary elections.
Former three-time Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s GERB party did best in the unsuccessful elections, but received only 26% of the vote. Public discontent with the widespread population diminished the party’s popularity from four years earlier when it had 33% of the vote.
The latest public opinion polls show that support for GERB has continued to decline since the Bulgarian president of the transitional government opened an investigation into alleged corruption during Borissov’s tenure in May.
Polls suggest a neck-and-neck race between Borisov’s party and its main rival, the anti-elite There is such a people, led by popular TV entertainer Slavi Trifonov.
“There have been two clear trends in the last few months: a decline in support for the GERB party, mainly due to the actions of the transitional government, and a slight but significant growth in There is a such a people,” Dimitar Ganev, a political figure An analyst for the Bulgarian market research firm Trend told The Associated Press.
He sees no chance for political loner Borissov, 62, to return to office for a fourth term, regardless of whether GERB takes first place in Sunday’s elections.
“I expect the next government to be formed by the so-called protest parties,” said Ganev.
Borissov previously managed to win support at home and abroad by combining populist man-in-the-street rhetoric with pro-Western slogans.
But thousands took to the streets in months of protests last year, accusing Borissov and his government of protecting oligarchs, of refusing to reform the judiciary and suppressing freedom of expression.
The interim government’s investigations have shed additional light on some of these allegations.
Transitional ministers have alleged dozens of opposition leaders were illegally wiretapped ahead of the April elections. They have also alleged that billions in public money have been distributed to preferred private companies without a tender process and that business people have become objects of intimidation and extortion.
Bulgaria, which is both a member of the EU and NATO, has been criticized by its western partners because of its longstanding problems with corruption, the rule of law and the maintenance of media freedom.
The US government last month sanctioned several Bulgarian officials and businessmen, including two powerful oligarchs, and their networks, which include dozens of companies, for their allegedly “extensive” role in corruption. The U.S. Treasury Department said this was the largest anti-corruption measure ever made around the world under Magnitsky Law.
Political analysts assume that the US sanctions imposed just a few weeks before the election could further strengthen the anti-corruption arguments of the protest parties.
A central question in the upcoming vote is whether There Is Such a People and two other parties will win enough seats in parliament to form a viable coalition government.