Pro-Europe Party Wins Bulgaria Elections, Socialists Yield

Apr 05, 2017, 00:39
Pro-Europe Party Wins Bulgaria Elections, Socialists Yield

(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda). Bulgarian former Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, leader of the center-right GERB party, speaks to the media after casting his vote in Sofia, Bulgaria, Sunday, March 26, 2017.

Although it remains the poorest country in the European Union (which it joined in 2007), Bulgaria's transition to democracy has been very successful.

Although some observers have mulled the formation of a grand coalition between GERB and the Socialist Party, Socialist leader Korneliya Ninova dismissed that idea on Sunday evening, saying she still hoped to lead a government of her own.

While Bulgaria historically has had strong ties with Moscow, Borisov's GERB party is strongly pro-EU and has supported the bloc's sanctions imposed on Russian Federation over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

The GERB party's popularity faded during Borisov's previous term as prime minister because of the slow pace of reforms to eliminate graft and poverty and to overhaul the judicial system.

"We are the party that ushered Bulgaria into the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and we stand by (our obligations in) these organisations", she told AFP in a recent interview.

The poll was triggered in another snap election in November, after GERB's candidate lost to the pro-Russian general, Rumen Radev, of the Bulgaria Socialist Party.

And again like many compatriots, he is an enthusiastic European. If they confirm the exit polls, Borisov will be handed a mandate to form his third cabinet.

"The GERB party, to a much greater extent, will maintain Bulgaria's Euro-Atlantic orientation and integration", said Boriana Dimitrova, an analyst with pollster Alpha Research.

Mustafa Karadaya, 46, heads the centrist Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MDL) representing mostly Bulgaria's 700,000-strong Turkish minority, a legacy of centuries of Ottoman rule.

Speaking to national television yesterday (23 March), Ninova said the political force closest to BSP are the United Patriots, a new anti-immigration, anti-Muslim grouping that includes the ultra-nationalist Ataka party.

Karadaya says Erdogan has "abandoned" the values of Ataturk, modern Turkey's founder. Turkey has openly supported it, creating a rift with its neighbour. The dispute boosted the United Patriots who blocked the border on Friday to stop voters coming in from Turkey, before being dispersed by police.

"Bulgaria's membership of the European Union, even if it's not fashionable to talk about it now in Bulgaria, is the best thing to happen to us", Borisov told Reuters in an interview.

Another potential coalition partner is Veselin Mareshki, 49, a colorful populist who likes being called the Bulgarian Donald Trump. He came fourth in the presidential race. Bulgarians are heading to the polls for the third time in four years in a sn. "I did not see any of their pledges materialising", teacher Tsvetomira Tosheva, 47, said in Sofia.

It almost doubled its results from the last parliamentary vote in 2014, when the Socialists won only just over 15 cent of the votes.

"There is always a great surprise in each elections here and maybe this time it will be a catastrophic loss for Borissov", analyst Evgeni Daynov told AFP. "We must have a stable government and a stable opposition".

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