GERB to be biggest party in fragmented Bulgaria parliament

By bne IntelliNews October 6, 2014

Clare Nuttall in Bucharest -


Early results from Bulgaria’s October 5 parliamentary election show that the centre-right GERB party headed by former prime minister Boiko Borisov has taken the largest share of the vote. However, the party falls short of a majority and with a highly-fragmented new parliament, Borisov will struggle to form a stable coalition.

Preliminary results released at 09:40 local time this morning give GERB a clear lead with 32.66% of the votes. With over 87% of votes counted, this is more than double the votes cast for the Bulgarian socialist party (BSP), the runnerup, according to the Bulgarian central election commission.

As polls predicted, a total of eight parties are expected to pass the threshold to take seats, leading to a highly fragmented parliament and dashing any hopes that the election of a new parliament would deliver a stable new government in Bulgaria.

Borisov, who campaigned under the slogan “A Stable Bulgaria”, now faces the extremely tricky task of putting together a new ruling coalition.

Speaking on October 5, Borisov said that while he was waiting for the final results before commenting on his coalition plans, he was ready for offers the parties who had gained seats in the new parliament.

“I am ready to rule the country, because we are the best prepared,” Borisov told journalists, according to Novinite. “I beg the colleagues party leaders to consider their results soberly, before making grand statements. I am not posing any conditions.”

Statements from Borisov in the run-up to the election gave little clarity about his intentions. Initially claiming he would only govern if the electorate gave GERB an absolute majority in parliament, he later said the Reformist Bloc, a coalition of centre-right parties, was the “only possible partner” for GERB. Then, shortly before the election he talked to Reuters about a “broad coalition.”

However, on October 5, Borisov indicated that all the larger parties to be represented in the parliament were out of the running. Already ruling out working alongside either the BSP or its former coalition partner the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), which was in third place with 14.79% of the vote. Meanwhile, Borisov also indicated problems with the Reformist Bloc, in fourth place with 8.91% of the vote, since its leaders had objected to serving under him as prime minister.

The election “seems to have failed to produce a result which provides much hope of Bulgaria pulling out of the political logjam it has been subject to for the past couple of years,” writes Tim Ash of Standard Bank.

Ash forecasts that forming a new government will be “acutely difficult” for GERB. With the Socialists, the MRF and the Reformist Party all ruled out as coalition partners, “This leaves GERB with some unpalatable choices, including an alliance with nationalist parties which might strain relations with some of Bulgaria's Western allies,” he says.

Given his relatively weak mandate, there is speculation that Borisov may decide not to return as prime minister. “If he realises just how big the problems are and doubts whether he can solve them, the chances of him declining the post are quite high: being driven out of office twice would just be too humiliating. In this case he might task a technocrat or another GERB politician,” political scientist Vladimir Shopov of the New Bulgarian University told bne before the election.

Fed up

Low turnout of 39.20% as of 17:00 on October 5 countrywide, and as little as 29% in the southern Kardzhai region, indicates how fed up Bulgarians have become with their politicians and the frequent changes of regime. Many voters appear to have decided to shun GERB and the BSP in favour of fringe parties.

While GERB has a reasonably successful record in office between 2009 and 2013, the slump in support for the BSP, which was even lower than forecast by pollsters, indicates dissatisfaction with the performance of the last government.

Snap elections were called for the second time in under two years, after the coalition behind technocrat prime minister Plamen Oresharski’s government withdrew its support following a disastrous performance in the May European Parliament elections. The coalition had been shaky since the beginning, since the former communist BSP and the mainly ethnic Turkish MRF held exactly half the parliament seats, relying on the extreme nationalist Ataka party for support.

The collapse of the last government leaves its successor with numerous problems to resolve, despite the efforts of the caretaker government under interim Prime Minister Georgi Bliznashki.

Stimulating the economy of the EU’s poorest country will be a priority. In the first five months of the year, foreign direct investment (FDI) dropped 33.8% compared with the same period of 2013, according to the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB). In September, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) lowered its 2014 growth forecast for Bulgaria from 1.9% to 1.5%, partly due to problems in the banking sector, where there is so far no resolution to the crisis at the country’s fourth largest bank Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB). The energy sector is also in urgent need of reform.

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