The second parliamentary election in Bulgaria within three months last Sunday did not lead to a clear winner, and the poorest country in the European Union is in danger of falling into chaos.
Pop singer Slavi Trifonov’s anti-establishment party beat three-time Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and called for the right to form a government; but that won’t be an easy task. Based on the results, Trifonov’s There Is Such a People party won 24.08% ahead of the center-right GERB with 23.51%.
Statements from party leaders suggest that no one really wants to work with anyone; and even if they tried, the new parliamentary geography makes the formation of a viable anti-systemic government impossible.
The proportional representation system was a disaster. The “fair” distribution of seats prevents the formation of a stable government. Apart from some drastic developments, no number of rounds will result in a stable government as long as this electoral system continues. A debate has already begun on the introduction of a strengthened system of proportional representation, which would give the top party additional seats in order to facilitate the formation of a government.
For Greece, the persistent political instability in Bulgaria can only cause trouble. Bulgaria is not only a friend, NATO ally and EU partner, it is also home to thousands of Greek companies. There is also a risk of delays in key projects such as the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) gas pipeline. Finally, there are legitimate concerns in the EU and NATO about Bulgaria’s role as a major geopolitical hub in south-eastern Europe and on the Black Sea.
One way out of the current impasse, say Western diplomats, could be the support of a minority government by Europe and the US, an idea of the unpredictable Trifonov, to avoid another round of elections and further split.
The € 7.5 billion Bulgaria is slated to receive for its post-Covid recovery could serve as a carrot. However, in order for this money to reach Sofia, there has to be a government in place to manage it.