The governability problem in Bulgaria remains even after the early elections of April 2, in which the country’s geopolitical orientation was again one of the important stakes. It was the fifth general election to take place in two years, while government stability remains a question.
The center-right party GERB (stands for Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria as an acronym and shield as a word) of former Prime Minister (2009-2013, 2014-2017, 2017-2021) Boyko Borisov managed to take the lead again by a short margin (25 .39%), overturning the predictions, against the centrist coalition PP-DB (Continuing Change and Democratic Party) of former Prime Minister (2021-2022) Kirill Petkov and Asen Vasilev, which received 23.54%. The biggest sensation was the rise by five percentage points of the patriotic and considered anti-NATO party Vazrazhdane (Renaissance) under Konstantin Konstantinov, to 13.58%, while Mustafa Karandagi’s Movement for Rights and Freedoms received 13.18%. relying mainly on the votes of the Turkish minority.
In an election with a new record of abstention, the center-right GERB is seen as having achieved victory thanks to the unity of its leadership and its rallying, in contrast to the image of the many different leaders and the many divisions of the centrist parties, while the perceived pro-Russian Vazrazhdane party ( Renaissance), which had previously ruled out participation in a coalition government, managed to establish itself as a third political force, among other things, due to the dissatisfaction of a large portion of the citizens with the policies pursued by the parties of the country’s former prime ministers.
Among the issues that had occupied the pre-election debate were inflation, which makes it very difficult for a large part of the population to survive, high fuel and energy prices, the demographic problem (with the rapid decrease of the Bulgarian population, but also mass immigration mainly to other European Union countries), as well as the question of whether Bulgaria should keep its national currency, the lev, or step up efforts to join the eurozone, which was initially planned for January 2024. Related are also the reforms needed , in order for Bulgaria to join the Schengen Area. Bulgaria’s attitude towards neighboring North Macedonia and its integration into Western institutions in relation to the issues of the Bulgarian minority in the country, was also one of the themes. An important issue of the pre-election dialogue was the Turk Stream pipeline, which was planned to reach Hungary via Bulgaria, but its construction has run into the general geopolitical crisis.
In the run-up to the election, former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov stressed the need for fiscal discipline, criticizing the previous Petkov government for derailment, with the latter blaming his predecessor for the corruption that prevailed in Bulgaria during the decade of his prime ministership. The coalition of Kirill Petkov, an economist and businessman from Canada with studies in Vancouver and Boston, has the most pro-Nazi orientation, as was shown mainly by his statements and actions during his brief prime ministership in 2022, in which he was however forced to difficult compromises with the less pro-Western parties of his coalition government, with the ITN (There Is Such a People) party eventually withdrawing its support.
The first two parties, therefore, are committed to different degrees and in different ways to Bulgaria’s European path, while the protest vote was mainly directed towards the Renaissance party, which projects as the most decisive opposition voice, given that it does not intend to participate in governments cooperation.
Its dynamic and communicative head, Konstantin Konstantinov, distinguished in folklore and documentaries about the Bulgarians of the Diaspora (with field research in Moldova, Ukraine, Romania, North Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Greece, etc.) has consistently positioned himself against in the accession of Bulgaria to the Eurozone, which is a major stake of the political consultation. In this way he managed to increase his percentage in the elections by around 5%, as he consistently called for a referendum on Bulgaria’s accession to the Eurozone and for the people to have the opportunity to express their position on an issue that will affect the future of. The Socialist Party, led by Cornelia Ninova, is also skeptical of joining the eurozone, but he showed in this election a record drop in his percentages. Greater complexity is presented by the DPS (Movement for Rights and Freedoms) party, which, although it is of an Atlanticist orientation, is also addressed to a part of the Russophile public, while it is predominantly voted for by the Turkish minority.
However, the election result is considered to have reflected the distrust towards the reform program of Kirill Petkov’s coalition, with the result that the governance crisis has deepened. The winner of the elections, Boyko Borisov, is calling on the other parties to form a government at all costs, in order to end the most intense phase of the government crisis that has lasted since October 2022, when the formation of a non-working government had not been achieved. In this way, the planned goal of Bulgaria joining the Eurozone in January 2024 is removed.
“Bulgarians have decided that they cannot do without GERB, but not without PP-DB either. Our personal feelings are of no importance,” said Borisov characteristically. Since the most striking feature of the election was the rise of the patriotic anti-NATO party Anagennisi, the two dominant parties of the imperfect former bipartisanship feel the need to co-govern in order to entrench the pro-Western orientation of the political system. But compromises are expected to be difficult.