Borissov Heads for Bulgaria Vote Win, Though Paralysis Looms

(Bloomberg) —

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(Bloomberg) –

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Bulgaria’s former prime minister Boyko Borissov appeared on course to come out on top in a parliamentary election, although a fragmented party landscape meant the nation could be headed for a prolonged period of political paralysis.

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In the fourth election in less than two years, Borissov’s conservative party won 26 percent of the vote, according to an Alpha Research exit poll broadcast on public television on Sunday. The party of former Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, whose reformist government lasted only seven months before being ousted in June, came in second with 20 percent, the poll found. The official results will come by evening.

Borissov’s political isolation and Petkov’s dwindling support means neither leader has a clear path to forming a government. A prolonged period of coalition-building — and even the prospect of a fifth election — could hamper Bulgaria’s ability to deal with record inflation, a plan to adopt the euro and the fallout from the invasion Ukraine by Russia.

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Bulgarian voters “expect compromises to be made: they want a government to be formed,” Boryana Dimitrova, managing partner of Alpha Research, told public broadcaster BNT. “It won’t be easy.”

The European Union’s poorest member state has been thrust into its worst crisis in decades after Russia, a former ally, cut off gas supplies in April. Almost entirely dependent on the Kremlin’s energy imports before the conflict, the pressure has left the leaders of the nation of 6.5 million people scrambling for new resources.

Radev holds the reins

In the absence of an elected government, the vacuum has so far been filled by an interim cabinet appointed by President Rumen Radev, a retired general who has fended off accusations of softening the country’s stance on Moscow.

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While Petkov tried to force a hard diversion from Russia, Radev’s caretaker government has moved to revive talks with Russian state-owned Gazprom PJSC to resume supplies.

The head of state criticized EU sanctions imposed after the Kremlin’s 2014 takeover of Crimea, which at one point it said belonged to Russia. In a speech last week, Radev condemned President Vladimir Putin’s aggression, but also warned that the EU should mitigate the risks of its own sanctions against the Kremlin.

“It is becoming more and more difficult to form a government,” Radev told reporters in Sofia on Sunday after voting. “Our country needs strong and legitimate institutions to overcome crises, to undertake decisive reforms and to make strategic decisions with a long-term horizon.”

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Borissov isolated, Petkov weakened

Borissov’s Gerb dominated the nation for more than a decade before losing power last year to Petkov’s party, known as Let’s Continue Change. Backed by massive anti-corruption protests aimed at Borissov, Petkov defeated the conservatives on a promise to tackle corruption. That support has waned, although Borissov’s political isolation leaves him with few options.

A party that traditionally represented Bulgaria’s ethnic Turks, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, came third with 14 percent, exit polls showed, while Bulgaria’s pro-Russian Socialists had 10 percent support. Revival, an ultra-nationalist party, won 10%, worse than expected.

Party leaders will have three chances to form a majority. If that fails, the president will be forced to call a new vote.

(Updates with Bulgaria in crisis, the President’s role in the fourth paragraph.)



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