Poll in Bulgaria announces paralysis as protest parties no longer have a majority

An anti-establishment party headed by singer Slavi Trifonov is faced with the daunting task of forming a new government in Bulgaria after narrowly taking second place in Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

There Is Such a People (ITN), founded by the celebrated musician and television presenter, received around 23.7 percent of the vote and will need the support of at least one of the despised traditional parties as well as the other two so-called protest parties to form a majority .

Boyko Borisov, the Conservative leader who ruled Bulgaria for the past 12 years, appeared to be at the mercy of the opposition. His Gerb party led the poll results, but it reached just 23.9 percent, according to the Central Election Commission, with 95 percent of the votes counted Monday morning, and there is a lack of allies with whom a coalition could be formed.

Democratic Bulgaria, another protest party, was on track to win 12.6 percent, while anti-transplant Stand up! Mafia out! Movement was 5 percent and thus just exceeded the threshold of 4 percent to move into parliament.

Trifonov must secure the support of at least one of two smaller established parties, the Socialists, which won 13.6 percent, or the Turkish Minority Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRP), which received 10.6 percent.

Analysts said that once overseas votes are counted, ITN could emerge as the largest party. But Bulgaria, the poorest EU member state, is likely headed for an unstable government, if not political paralysis.

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, center, the leader of the Gerb party, speaks to the media outside a polling station in Sofia © Vassil Donev / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

Borisov is very unlikely to be able to form a government because the other parties have vowed not to cooperate with Gerb. But protest groups lack the voices to rule alone and are reluctant to team up with either the socialists or the MRP who they believe have perpetuated a corrupt political system.

“We are nowhere politically because the so-called protest parties didn’t even have enough votes together to form an independent government,” said Hristo Ivanov, a leader of the liberal Yes, Bulgaria !, part of the Democratic Bulgaria Alliance, the Financial Times said on late sunday.

“The result means 110-115 MPs, but I don’t expect anything beyond that,” said Ivanov. “You need at least 122 for a majority. It’s a very difficult situation in which you can’t just call new elections.”

Trifonov, a popular folk-rock singer, kept silent about his plans during the election campaign and confused his potential coalition partners. Bulgarians know little about what his ITN party stands for or about their new MPs in parliament. Ivanov has called his potential coalition partner a “black box”.

Borisov oversaw some economic developments, including upgrading infrastructure, but was unable to shake off lingering transplant accusations that boiled over months of protests last year.

The demonstrations undermined support for Gerb and made it “inviolable” for political partners, according to several analysts and opposition politicians.

“Young people continue to go abroad. Corruption stifles any business initiative. Something has to change, ”38-year-old engineer Nikolay Galabov told Reuters after casting his vote in Sofia.

In an interview last week, the former prime minister dismissed the transplant allegations as unfounded and said the opposition was pushing the agenda of a left-wing “mafia”.

Sunday’s vote was a repeat of the unsuccessful early April elections that failed to form a government. Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev, a staunch opponent of Borisov, has set up an interim administration. Although there was no democratic mandate, it set about cleaning up the public administration, revising the procurement procedures and dismissing officials who were deemed corrupt.

“As soon as the people saw Borisov out of power, they didn’t see an appropriate proposal for a new government in the political market,” Ivanov said, pointing out the low turnout.

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