Former Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisov’s conservative party won Sunday’s election, partial results showed, but might not be able to form a majority government as the Socialists expanded their share of the vote from 18 to 26 percent.
Far-right nationalists, who backed Borisov’s previous government, said on Monday that they would not join a right-wing coalition while the Socialists seek support from a liberal ethnic Turkish party to form a government instead.
In the meantime, greater economic and political uncertainty looms for the country which is the poorest in the European Union. More than 22 percent of Bulgarians lives under the official poverty line. Government statistics put the unemployment rate at 12 percent although independent analysts suspect it might be as high as 18 percent.
Contributing to the political crisis are corruption scandals. Just a day before the election, police stormed a printing house and seized hundreds of thousands of illegally printed ballots.
National radio station BNR reported that the owner of the printing house is a member of one of the large political parties but didn’t tell who might have ordered the printing of the ballots.
The elections were otherwise monitored by a record number of international observers while the opposition had hired an Austrian company to independently count votes.
Turnout, at 48 percent, was 12 percent lower than in the last election while protesters gathered in the capital Sofia after partial results were announced to express their dissatisfaction about the existing parliament being largely reelected.
Mass demonstrations also took place earlier this year, triggered by rising electricity bills, against corruption, poverty and unemployment. Several protesters were wounded at the time and one died.
Borisov’s party has seen its reputation further tarnished since prosecutors accused his former interior minister of eavesdropping on political opponents. The former premier resigned after February’s demonstrations but, even if his party lost some of its seats on Sunday, continues to enjoy considerable support from his base.