1664731194 Nobody could win the elections in Bulgaria

Nobody could win the elections in Bulgaria

The fourth parliamentary elections in less than a year and a half will take place in Bulgaria on Sunday. According to the polls, no party was able to form a stable government for the umpteenth time. The situation is particularly tricky because the country of almost 7 million people is in the middle of a dispute over the management of energy reserves: the interim government that is to lead the country to elections in a few months has brought Bulgaria closer to Russia and renounced the pro-European and pro-Western policies of the previous government. Energy supply and costs as well as the country’s international positioning thus became one of the most important and controversial issues of the election campaign.

The divisions between the parties are so pronounced that forming a government could be very difficult, and some analysts predict that further elections will be necessary (the fifth expected in early 2023). The country’s pro-Russian president, Rumen Radev, has so far taken advantage of this confused situation. Although Bulgaria is a parliamentary republic, the constitution gives the president great powers in these situations of political instability: Radev makes full use of them and has become by far the most powerful political figure in the country in recent months.

The last elected government was expressed in November 2021: the winner was We Continue Change (PP), a pro-European and liberal party founded just months earlier and led by Kiril Petkov, an economist at Harvard , who pledged to rid Bulgaria of the enormous corruption problems that have plagued governments in recent years.

Petkov became prime minister and formed a coalition government that pursued strong pro-European and Western policies: among other things, Bulgaria refused to pay for Russian gas in rubles after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and in April 2022 was among the first European countries to sign a full suffer an interruption in supply.

Nobody could win the elections in Bulgaria

Kiril Petkov (AP Photo / Valentina Petrova)

The Petkov government, however, had gone to work to find alternatives: it had agreed with the US to send seven tankers of liquefied natural gas (LNG), it had started and, most importantly, completed talks on new supplies from Azerbaijan years of waiting, the construction of a gas pipeline with Greece, connecting Bulgaria to the Mediterranean without having to pass through the Bosphorus.

In June 2022, the Petkov government fell due to internal disputes within its shaky coalition, at which point President Rumen Radev intervened and appointed a new interim government of his choosing to lead the country to the 2 October elections. Radev, an ambitious politician who is seen as pro-Russia, had appointed Galab Donev as prime minister, who was formally independent but had de facto turned away from Petkov’s pro-European policies and sought to bring Bulgaria closer to Russia.

Donev had renounced LNG supplies from the US, effectively prevented the opening of the gas pipeline with Greece for months (although it had long been operational and filled with gas) and most importantly announced the resumption of negotiations with the Greek-Russian company Gazprom to return to to receive Russian gas supplies.

Donev’s actions have caused considerable dissatisfaction in Bulgaria, but neither party seems really able to take advantage of the situation.

According to polls, the frontrunners are the Bulgarian Citizens for European Development (GERB) with around 26 percent of the votes. GERB is the party of Boyko Borisov, who was prime minister from 2014 to 2021 but whose public image has been severely tarnished by allegations of corruption, condoning organized crime and racism, among others. GERB should even be by far the first party, but precisely because of Borisov’s bad reputation, no other party has volunteered to form a government with him, and even after the elections it will be difficult to find allies.

In second place in the polls is We’re Continuing Change, the party of former pro-European Prime Minister Petkov, which, however, has around 18 percent of the vote and is unlikely to have enough strength to form a coalition.

Behind this is a whole range of parties, which the polls give between 9 and 12 percent: Coalition for Bulgaria (BSP), an electoral cartel dominated by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, centre-left but close to Russia; the anti-European and pro-Russian Vazrazhdane party; and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), an ethnic-based party that mainly gathers the votes of the Turkish minority.

1664731189 43 Nobody could win the elections in Bulgaria

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev (AP Photo / Valentina Petrova)

In this context, forming a government threatens to become practically impossible. If so, it would again be up to President Radev to appoint a government of his choice, which would make him even more influential.

The extraordinary political instability creates a strong distrust among the population, which has already protested massively against corruption in recent years. “Two-thirds of Bulgarians say there should be a government after the elections, and at the same time almost two-thirds of them don’t believe there will be one,” Boryana Dimitrova, an analyst at polling firm Alpha Research, told Portal. In the last elections, voter turnout was rather low, just over 40 percent.