Centre-right GERB claimed victory in Bulgaria’s parliamentary elections, narrowly defeating its main opponents, the Bulgarian Socialists, exit polls show.
The centre-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, GERB, led by ex-Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, won the snap parliamentary polls on Sunday by a margin of 4 per cent from its closest rival, according to the first exit polls released by Bulgaria’s main polling agencies – Alpha Research and Gallup International Balkan.
According to Alpha Research, GERB has won 33.4 per cent of the votes, while Gallup estimates that support for GERB was 32.6 per cent, which translates to 86-98 seats in the new parliament.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, led by Korneliya Ninova, came a narrow second, with around 28 per cent of the votes, which translates to between 75 and 85 seats in the next National Assembly, depending on how many parties enter the parliament.
Voter turnout was estimated to be 52.8 per cent of the 6.8 million eligible voters in Bulgaria.
“This result definitely confirmed that GERB has to be a leading party in government,” Borissov said in a statement for the media following the release of the first exit polls.
He promised to make the maximum effort to form a government “with small compromises,” which would “answer the needs of people both internally and in the difficult international situation.”
Borissov refused to comment on who will be the potential partners for a future coalition government, saying his party will wait for the final results to be revealed in coming days first.
BSP’s Ninova congratulated GERB on its victory, but made it clear that the Socialists will not join a broad coalition with Borissov’s party, if they are invited to do so.
“If GERB fails to form a government and we are given a mandate, we will try to form a government in the name of the stability of Bulgaria and the future Bulgarian presidency of the European Union,” she added.
The Socialist leader estimated that her party has doubled its support since the past parliamentary elections in 2014, meaning that BSP “is on the right track”.
Three other parties will have MPs in Bulgaria’s new parliament, according to the exit polls. They are the ethnic-Turkish dominated party Movement for Rights and Freedoms, MRF, the nationalist United Patriots coalition, and the new Volya Party by businessman Veselin Mareshki.
The centre-right coalition Reformist Block – People’s Voice has finished with a little below the 4 per cent threshold for entering the parliament, but pollsters still give it a chance to pass the threshold after the final results are calculated in the following days.
Smaller parties like the anti-graft Yes, Bulgaria coalition, the centre-right New Republic party and the new ethnic-Turkish dominated party DOST, accused of being Turkey’s Trojan horse in Bulgaria, remain well below the threshold.
The ballots from voters living abroad are not counted in exit polls and will be revealed in the following days.
The close result between GERB and the Socialists will require a broader coalition government to be formed, giving nationalistic and populist parties, such as the United Patriots and Volya, a decisive role in the future cabinet.
Volya’s Mareshki, a businessman whose populist message was expected to attract around 7 per cent of the votes, was first to announce his readiness to join a coalition government under certain conditions, including a fight against “the oil prices cartel”.
Valeri Simeonov from the National Front for Salvation of Bulgaria, NFSB, expressed his disappointment with the results of the United Patriots’ coalition, which her party is part of and received around 9 per cent of the votes according to exit polls.
“I can say ‘No’ to GERB a thousand times,” he told the Bulgarian National Television when asked whether he would join a coalition government with the election victors.
His statement referred to the situation with the last government, when his party was not officially part of the GERB-led coalition, but was formally supporting its programme.
The Balkan Insight