Bulgaria holds parliamentary elections amid apathy and no end in sight to its political paralysis


Bulgarian citizens began to vote this Sunday in the fifth parliamentary elections in two years, one in which the center-right party of former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and the coalition of also former Chief Executive Kiril Petkov are side by side in polls, amid fears of low turnout and the continuation of the political deadlock in which the country finds itself.

Neither Borisov’s Citizens for European Development Bulgaria (GERB) nor Petkov’s Continue Change managed to form a government during their respective opportunities late last year and early this year. The third and last effort was left in the hands of the socialist Cornelia Ninova, who also failed to obtain the necessary support.

More than 5,600 candidates representing 14 political parties and seven party coalitions are registered for elections to the 240-member National Assembly, Bulgaria’s unicameral parliament. A party must secure at least 4 percent of the votes cast to secure seats in the chamber.

Voter apathy is compounded by episodes of tension related to the war in Ukraine, such as the recent closure of dozens of schools due to bomb threats received by email and telephone, most of them in the capital, Sofia. The acting government accused Russia of being behind what it described as a hybrid attack that seeks to cause fear and notoriety.

In an attempt to rack up votes, Petkov is appearing in a coalition with the right-wing Democratic Bulgaria party, but his true impact will not be seen until the results are published. His and GERB’s coalition would each get about 25 percent of the vote, according to polls.

Elsewhere, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) — a populist party close to GERB and backed by the Turkish minority — and the ultranationalist and pro-Russian party Vazrazhdane (Renaissance) are also in the running, with polls showing they show about 14 percent support for both.

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