Bulgaria to hold election overshadowed by war in Ukraine

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SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgarians will go to the polls for the fourth time in less than two years in a general election overshadowed this time by the war in Ukraine, rising energy costs and runaway inflation.

Pollsters expect voter fatigue and disillusionment with the political system to result in low turnout and a fragmented parliament where populist and pro-Russian groups could increase their representation.

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The snap election comes after a coalition led by pro-Western Prime Minister Kiril Petkov lost a no-confidence vote in June. He claimed Moscow used “hybrid warfare” tactics to topple his government after it refused to pay gas bills in rubles and ordered the expulsion of 70 Russian diplomatic staff from Bulgaria.

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The latest opinion polls suggest as many as seven parties could clear the 4% threshold to enter parliament in a contested vote on Sunday.

Despite declining support for former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s GERB party in previous elections, it is now tipped to finish first. Analysts explain that the change is probably due to the reluctance of voters to accept change in times of crisis and the preference to choose a party they know.

Parvan Simeonov, a Sofia-based Gallup International political analyst, said the war in Ukraine has a big influence on this election.

“While in previous polls the division was for and against the governance model of the last 10 years personified by GERB and Boyko Borissov, the main issues now are stabilization, keeping prices low and dealing with the consequences of the war,” Simeonov told The The. Associated Press

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“The main division in the country now is between East and West on the political map, rather than between the status quo and change,” he added.

Even so, the expected percentage will not be enough for Borissov’s party to form a one-party government, and the chances of a GERB-led coalition are slim, as almost all other opponents accuse him of corruption.

A recent Gallup International poll put GERB in first place with 25.9%, followed by its main rival, Petkov’s We Continue the Change party, with 19.2%.

Borissov, addressing party activists at the last campaign event in Sofia, was positive that GERB would win a convincing victory.

“This is the only solution for Bulgaria. We have the rare opportunity to have a stable government,” said the 63-year-old former prime minister, who is seeking a fourth term.

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His main rival, Kiril Petkov, is also confident that Sunday’s vote will yield positive results for his party.

“I certainly hope that we will be the first political power. The goal is to have a majority in the next parliament together with the other two parties: Democratic Bulgaria and the Socialist Party,” he told the AP.

The war in Ukraine was one of the main issues of the campaign and pro-Russian Vazrazhdane party leader Kostadin Kostadinov’s calls for Bulgaria’s “total neutrality” in this war are attracting many voters, as the latest opinion polls they predict that the group would get 11.3% of the vote, compared to 4.9% in the previous election.

The deep conflicts between the main parties make it almost impossible to form a viable coalition government, which would prolong the political impasse and add more economic problems to the European Union’s poorest member state.

Simeonov sees a possible solution in the formation of a cabinet of experts with a limited term.

“The other possible option would be not to govern and go to new elections,” he said.



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