Just over four months after centre-right Prime Minister Boyko Borissov submitted his government’s resignation on16 November, Bulgarians went to the polls yesterday in early parliamentary elections. Borissov’s GERB party topped the poll, maintaining a rock-steady 32.7 per cent share of the vote and taking an estimated 96 seats in the 240-member unicameral National Assembly.
The socialist BSP recovered substantially from its low point of the 2014 elections, when it was heavily punished by voters in the wake of a series of scandals. However the final 5.5 point gap to GERB was wider than the neck-and-neck contest that all opinion polls had predicted. It also contrasted with the Presidential election victory of the BSP’s candidate, Rumen Radev, back in November (which had precipitated the early parliamentary vote).
The far-right United Patriots, a coalition of three nationalist parties, achieved a modest advance in its own vote share and managed (just) to become Bulgaria’s third biggest party. However, taking into account its combination with Ataka, which previously ran separately and gained eleven seats, this part of the political spectrum actually fell back.
Two political forces were punished for splits within their ranks. The Turkish minority Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) saw a significant fall in its vote after the breakaway of former leader Lyutvi Mestan to form the hardline, pro-Ankara DOST. However DOST itself failed to creep across the 4 per cent threshold, resulting in a net loss of representation for the community as whole.
The breakaway New Republic Coalition, a splinter of the Reformist Bloc, not only failed to cross the threshold, garnering 2.5 per cent, but in standing candidates also helped drag down the Bloc itself to just over 3 per cent. As a result this part of the centre-right camp is out of parliament.
Among new parties, businessman Veselin Mareshki’s Volya (or ‘Will’) just made it into the National Assembly, scraping 4.1 per cent, in contrast to some far more optimistic opinion polling. ‘Yes Bulgaria’, running on a liberal, anti-corruption platform, failed to gain seats at 2.91 per cent. The previously represented ABV movement is also out of the Assembly – meaning that the total number of parties in parliament falls from eight to five.
Turnout is estimated unofficially to be around 54 per cent, an increase on 2014’s election, where it had been the lowest since the fall of communism in 1989. 6.8 million Bulgarians were eligible to vote – including, controversially for some, Bulgarian Turks resident in Turkey.
BULGARIAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
General Election 26 March 2017
(5 October 2014 results in brackets)
Votes in per cent
Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) 32.65 (32.67)
Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) 27.20 (15.40)
United Patriots (nationalist) 9.07 (7.28)
Movement for Rights & Freedoms (DPS) 8.99 (14.84)
Volya (‘Will’) 4.15 (n/a)
Reformist Bloc (RB) 3.06 (8.89)
Yes Bulgaria! 2.88 (n/a)
DOST 2.86 (n/a)
New Republic Coalition 2.48 (n/a)
Alternative for a Bulgarian Revival (ABV) 1.55 (4.15)
Other candidates/parties or blank votes 5.12
Seats in parliament
Unofficial estimates: official allocation awaited
GERB 96 (84)
BSP 79 (39)
United Patriots 27 (19)
DPS 26 (38)
Volya 12 (n/a)
Reformist Bloc 0 (23)
Bulgaria Without Censorship n/a (15)
Ataka n/a (11)
ABV 0 (11)
Total 240 seats
26 March 2017: awaited
5 October 2014: 51.05 per cent
Source: Bulgarian Central Election Commission
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