In Bulgaria, repeated elections and crises

The war in Ukraine has caused a collateral victim in Bulgaria. In this country historically close to Moscow, where Russophiles and Russophobes oppose each other, the very fragile government coalition led by the reformist Kiril Petkov fell on June 22, four months after the start of Russian aggression in Ukraine and barely seven months after taking command of the country.

The lasting political crisis is therefore forcing the Bulgarians to return to the polls on 2nd October for the fourth time in eighteen months. How many will be mobilizing? Tired of these repeated elections, only 38.4% voted in the last ballot in November 2021.

Russian Gas Shutdown

Kiril Petkov, with his pro-European progressive party “Let’s pursue change”, then took the lead of a heterogeneous government coalition with the fight against corruption as a priority program. During the summer of 2020 gigantic demonstrations “against the mafia state” and real estate scandals had targeted the right-wing Gerb party and its inescapable leader Boïko Borissov, who remained in power for a decade.

But Sofia’s condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, her refusal to pay for Russian gas in roubles, the halt in response to gas deliveries by Moscow (90% of Bulgarian consumption), the expulsion of dozens of diplomats forces and the fight against Russian influence networks, divided the population and shattered the coalition.

Pro and anti-Russian in government

This resolutely pro-European positioning of the Head of Government has provoked “a complete severance of relations between Kiril Petkov and the President of the Republic Roumen Radev (pro-Russian, Editor’s note) », reports Corinne Deloy, head of the Observatory of Elections in Europe at the Robert-Schumann Foundation, in a study published on 19th September.

In government, the partly pro-Russian Socialist Party opposed any arms shipments to Ukraine, and the populist party Such a People Exists ended up leaving the coalition, creating a window of opportunity for the Gerb to bring down the government with a vote of no confidence, explains the political scientist.

The risk of new elections in 2023

In this context of energy crisis and inflation – around 20% in the poorest of the countries of the European Union – Boïko Borissov returns to the political scene with his slogan “Stronger than Chaos”. The Gerb is the favorite in the latest polls, around 25% of voting intentions, nearly 9 points ahead of Let’s continue the change.

But for the time being, there is no tangible element to expect the formation of a stable government after this fourth legislative election which could lead to a fifth in 2023, with almost all the parties declaring that they refuse to ally with the Gerb .

And doubts remain about the transparency and integrity of the ballot. The Ministry of the Interior announced a vast operation to fight against vote buying and reported numerous arrests. In an interview with the Mediapool news site, Minister Ivan Demerdjiev reported on the various methods used to influence the vote, whether pressure from employers, offers of firewood or requests for mobile ballot boxes. for voting at home for people declared disabled.

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