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    Emblem seal of despondency // The fourth snap elections in Bulgaria risk turning into the fifth

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    In the early elections in Bulgaria, the fourth in a year and a half, the party “Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria” (GERB) of former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov won. Kiril Petkov’s former ruling party “Continue Changes”, which previously blamed Moscow for the political crisis in the country, took second place and has already congratulated its rivals on their victory, announcing that they are leaving the opposition. After the official announcement of the results, Mr. Borisov will have to try to form a government, but the expert community is sure that the vote on October 2 did not solve the problem of political and social split, which means that, most likely, new early elections will soon await the republic.

    Early parliamentary elections in Bulgaria ended with the victory of Boyko Borisov’s GERB party in a coalition with the Union of Democratic Forces (SDF), which together gained about 25.33%. 20.2% of voters voted for the coalition “Continue Changes” by Kiril Petkov. In third place was the pro-Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) – 13.76%. The 4% barrier was also overcome by the pro-Russian Renaissance party – 10.17%, the Bulgarian Socialist Party for Bulgaria (BSP) – 9.3%, the Democratic Bulgaria bloc – 7.44%, the Bulgarian Sunrise association – 4, 62%. The local Central Election Commission still has a few days to announce the final results of the elections, but it is already clear that the republic has again got a divided parliament, in which it is easier for parties to find opponents for disputes than allies to form a stable government.

    The last cabinet headed by Kiril Petkov was created in December 2021 after three parliamentary elections in April, July and November of that year. The government did not last long. Already in the summer of 2022, due to a vote of no confidence related to the economic crisis in the country, he had to resign. Thus, the citizens of Bulgaria were forced to go to the polls for the fourth time in 18 months.

    Let us recall that after the entry of Russian troops into Ukraine on February 24, Mr. Petkov adhered to tough anti-Russian rhetoric, and Sofia became one of the first who refused to import gas from the Russian Federation under the “for rubles” scheme, which led to the cessation of supplies at the end of April, despite the country’s almost complete dependence on Russian blue fuel. At the end of his reign, the Cabinet of Ministers of Kiril Petkov expelled 70 Russian diplomats and diplomatic mission employees from the country at once, which almost led to a rupture of diplomatic relations with Moscow. Then, despite the corresponding proposal of the Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria, Eleonora Mitrofanova, the Russian Federation decided to refrain from radical steps.

    Mr. Petkov himself directly blamed the Russian Federation for the political crisis in the country.

    However, although the pro-Russian forces really strengthened their positions in these elections, the Vozrozhdenie party scored 17%, twice as much as in November 2021 – there is no talk of any government that would restore relations with Moscow and abandon the pan-European course in contacts with the Russian Federation. The expert community believes that the new cabinet of ministers, most likely, will not be as radical in its judgments as it was under Kiril Petkov, however, one should not hope for a reset in relations either.

    As Kommersant reminded Oleg Bondarenko, director of the Progressive Policy Foundation, editor-in-chief of the Balkanist.ru portal, Russia and Bulgaria have twice been in a state of breaking off diplomatic relations. The first time this happened during the First World War and resulted in the fact that the USSR embassy in the country appeared only in the 1930s. Therefore, the expert is sure, this time in Moscow they decided not to create a precedent, “which will have far-reaching consequences,” but to wait for some time. Another thing, in his opinion, tangible shifts in relations will not occur. However, “Boiko Borisov is a more experienced player and we have to see who he will form a government with,” the Balkanist added.

    Meanwhile, the task of forming a new cabinet, which Mr. Borisov will have to solve, is extremely difficult. Although the previous prime minister, Kiril Petkov, and another leader of Continue Changes, Asen Vasilev, congratulated GERB-SDS on their victory and promised to go into constructive opposition — that is, not to obstruct the formation of a government — the winners do not have the mandates necessary to form a cabinet on their own.

    Recall that in 2020 Sofia was seized by protests due to information that appeared about the links of the then government of Mr. Borisov with the mafia. In addition, he is often reminded of his ties with the Kremlin and Russian energy companies, which in the current conditions does not add points to him, although during the election campaign he tried to present himself as a supporter of Euro-Atlantism and declared his readiness to “tough talk” with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Therefore, a coalition, for example, with the pro-Russian “Vozrozhdeniye” will obviously not help further formation of the image of a Euro-Atlanticist. GERB could have entered into a coalition with the pro-Turkish DPS, however, in terms of corruption, its reputation is even worse than that of Mr. Borisov’s party. showed a strong division of society. “The new government in Bulgaria will be weak, it will be a situational union of forced partners who, roughly speaking, will be married. I think that the next elections to the country’s parliament will again turn out to be early,” the expert suggested.

    By the way, Mr. Radev is also suspected of pro-Russian sentiments. Thus, his name was absent in a recent letter from nine NATO countries from Central and Eastern Europe, in which the leaders of these states called for Ukraine to be admitted to the alliance and declared their non-recognition of Russia‘s sovereignty over Donetsk, Luhansk , Kherson and Zaporozhye regions.

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