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Bulgaria heads to the polls amid COVID discontent

Bulgarians are electing a new parliament after months of anti-government protests. Despite demonstrations and scandals, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov's party is predicted to win, but a majority may prove elusive.

By: Deutsche Welle |
April 4, 2021 8:19:22 pm
A man walks past a wall with election posters of the ruling centre-right GERB party. (Photo: Stoyan Nenov/REUTERS)

Bulgarians are casting their ballots on Sunday with the center-right government of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and his GERB party seeking a new mandate to govern.

While GERB — in power for almost a decade — has seen its support eroded by a series of scandals and protests, the party is expected to finish first.

Who’s in the running?

Polls show GERB garnering up to 29% of the vote, which could give it some 76 seats in the 240-seat legislature.

The main challenger to GERB, the Socialists, lie about 5-10% points behind the frontrunner.

Several smaller political groups are riding on the wave of strong anti-government sentiment and are projected to pass the 4% threshold to enter parliament for the first time.

One such party, led by a popular television entertainer, is expected to finish third.

Some 12,000 polling stations opened at 7 a.m. local time (0400 GMT/UTC) and are set to close at 8 p.m., with some 6.7 million people eligible to vote.

‘Fragmented and unconvincing opposition’

Borissov, who is seeking a fourth term, has avoided all contact with the media since the demonstrations over alleged corruption.

He has instead focused on social media to highlight campaign trail visits to the countryside with the slogan: “Work, work, work!”

It’s thought that GERB will emerge weakened after “a build-up of discontent” over its alleged links with the country’s oligarchy.

Political analyst Antony Todorov told news agency AFP up to six parties were expected to win seats in parliament.

He added that this could make it difficult to form a government.

“It’s the absence of an alternative due to the fragmented and unconvincing opposition that explains GERB’s hegemony,” said Todorov.

The vote for the incumbents — strongly criticized because of a perceived ineffective response to the pandemic could be boosted by a lower turnout because of fears of infection with the coronavirus, as well as the absence of postal or proxy voting.

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