In Bulgaria Borissov is back in office but will not

In Bulgaria, Borissov is back in office but will not rule for sure

Former Bulgarian Prime Minister Boïko Borissov’s party has come out on top in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, according to Exit Polls, a first place but one that doesn’t guarantee him a return to power.

According to several institutes, his conservative formation Gerb won around 25 percent of the votes ahead of his centrist rival Kiril Petkov (around 19 percent).

This is the fourth time in 18 months that Bulgarians have been called to vote for their parliament – a period of political instability not seen since the fall of communism in 1989. They did so half-heartedly – turnout is historically low (25% at 4:00 p.m.). ), as in November 2021 – and in a gloomy climate, with the approach of winter darkened by rising prices and the war in Ukraine.

If endemic corruption occupied the debates of the last parliamentary elections, this time economic uncertainty dominated the election campaign, while inflation in this Balkan country, the poorest in the European Union, is almost 20%.

At the opening of the polling stations in Sofia, 64-year-old economist Krasimira Velkova confided in her fears. “People worry about inflation, that a shopping cart costs a fortune. The difference from last year is staggering,” she said. “How are we supposed to survive the winter, endure the cold, pay our bills?” asks the 60-year-old.

“A Lesser Evil”

Boïko Borissov, 63, drew on his experience from a decade in power and vowed throughout the election campaign to defeat the “chaos”.

“We need people who have the bottle in these troubled times. Father Boïko, we can blame him for things, but it’s a lesser evil,” said Bogomil Grouev, a 62-year-old mechanic. Another voter, Rada Mintcheva, says she appreciates the fact that he knows how to deal with Russian and Western interests. “The war is very close to us, it’s better not to provoke anyone,” explains the 47-year-old nurse.

But the image of the colossus Borisov is tarnished. Bullied by massive anti-corruption protests in the summer of 2020, he is isolated within the political class and risks struggling to find a partner, analysts stress. On Sunday, the ex-chief once again called on other politicians to “sense reason” and said he was open to anyone defending “Bulgaria’s place in the EU and NATO”.

fragmented parliament

His rival Kiril Petkov has already rejected any alliance with the man he sees as the embodiment of Bulgaria’s “corrupt past”. The 42-year-old Harvard-educated former entrepreneur, who landed on the Bulgarian political scene in 2021, was overthrown by a no-confidence motion last June that lasted a total of seven months.

Ready to continue the work, he urged the Bulgarians to confirm their decision for “a new, prosperous Bulgaria”. It will not have been fully heard.

With its two allies, the Socialists (11%) and Democratic Bulgaria (8%), “they will not have enough MPs to form a government,” analyzes Alpha Research Institute director Boriana Dimitrova, interviewed by AFP. She predicts “long negotiations” and is not optimistic about the prospect of a stable coalition as the parliament is “fragmented”.

Gerb still has the option of allying himself with the Turkish minority party MDL (from 12 to 14%) or even with the ultra-nationalist and pro-Kremlin Vazrajdane (Renaissance) party (10%). “A mathematically possible but socially unacceptable coalition” because of the strong divergences between these three forces, emphasizes Boriana Dimitrova.

There is urgency, however, as this series of crises is blocking reforms, slowing growth and accelerating the exodus of young people from a country that has already lost a tenth of its population in a decade.