Popular showman Slavi Trifonov’s There Are Such People (ITN) has an extremely narrow lead in the July 11 snap general election in Bulgaria, exit polls showed.
ITN appears to have pushed Gerb, which ruled Bulgaria for a decade and came first in the April 4 election, into second place, but lacks a clear majority to form a stable government.
According to Alpha Research, ITN has 24% of the votes, while Gerb got 23.5%. Gallup International put the rival parties even closer with 23.9% of the vote for ITN versus 23.4% for Gerb.
Bulgarians went back to the polls after political parties failed to form a government following the April 4 general election, but the vote appears to have produced another fragmented parliament.
Turnout was down to 41% — significantly below the 50% in April, which was partially due to the summer holiday season, but was also seen as a clear signal by voters they were not happy with the refusal of political parties to form a regular government after the previous vote.
“Today was a good day for Bulgarian democracy because this was the fairest election so far. And not because of the result of There Are Such People but because of the new electoral rules that have limited the paid vote, the corporate vote and the manipulations with the ‘dead souls’ as much as possible,” Trifonov wrote on Facebook shortly after the exit polls.
“The support that There Are Such People received is stunning. I want to thank everyone who voted for us. We really do appreciate your trust,” Trifonov also wrote, adding he will announce the party’s next actions on July 12.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) remains third with 13.3%, according to Alpha Research, closely followed by the reformist Democratic Bulgaria (DB) with 13.3%. The ethnic-Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) follows with 11.1%, while Stand up! Thugs out! has 5%, according to Alpha Research. Gallup’s results are similar.
However, exit polls show that the anti-establishment parties – ITN, Democratic Bulgaria and Stand up! Thugs out! – would not together have 120 out of 240 MPs in the next parliament. This would not give them the much desired stable majority and it is still uncertain whether Trifonov will decide to take the challenge and form a government, or will take the risk of another snap vote. He is expected to make a statement on July 12.
No more unconditional support
While after the April 4 vote all political parties enthusiastically offered their support to Trifonov, who came second, now, when his party is leading, the BSP and DPS say they would back an ITN-led government only if their conditions are met.
The BSP’s leader Kornelia Ninova said that the country needs a regular government as people are tired and urgent issues must be solved, such as a budget revision and the adoption of a recovery plan.
“If they [the anti-establishment parties] want support, they will have to invite us to negotiations about politics,” Ninova said.
The DPS, which was also keen to back a Trifonov-led government including Democratic Bulgaria and Stand up! Thugs out! after the April vote, now also says it would support one under certain conditions.
The party’s formal leader, Mustafa Karadayi, said the DPS would demand the restoration of normality in politics and democracy.
“This means the state organs to function according to laws and the constitution, serving the Bulgarian citizens and helping business and not to be bats against the business and the citizens,” he said.
However, a DPS-backed government would not have the support of Democratic Bulgaria and would seriously compromise ITN as the party has become a synonym of corruption and murky deals between politicians and controversial businessmen. One of its prominent members, Delyan Peevski, was recently blacklisted by the US over significant corruption.
ITN has repeatedly said that it will not go into coalition with any of the traditional parties. However, another snap vote might lead to an even lower turnout and more votes for Gerb.
Time to make an effort
While ITN is still holding the audience under pressure, one of the leaders of Democratic Bulgaria, Hristo Ivanov, said politicians should make efforts to form a government.
“We should take the responsibility and look for a way to form a ruling [coalition]. The main issue is corruption and what the rules, according to which we are living, look like. There should be an effort for ruling and it should be based on a clear task,” Ivanov said in an interview with bTV after the first results were announced.
The formation significantly improved its result compared to April 4.
“We are not ready to make compromises about the ultimate goals we have. If one solution is rational and is leading to the goals, we are ready to discuss it. Without that scary for the Bulgarian political life word – compromise. We are ready for pragmatic talk,” Ivanov said.
Maya Manolova, one of the leaders of Stand up! Thugs out!, commented that the July 11 gave a clear signal that voters want change.
“Each of the parties of the protest [ITN, Democratic Bulgaria and Stand up! Thugs out!] has increased its result,” Manolova said.
She added that her formation will insist on its priorities, including increase of income, support for small firms, judicial reform and continuation of the revision of previous governments led by Gerb’s leader, former prime minister Boyko Borissov.
Gerb predicts dark times ahead
The biggest loser on July 11 was Gerb, which has not lost election since its formation — until now — predicted dark days ahead for Bulgaria.
“A government that will not bear political responsibility is emerging,” Toma Bikov, one of Borissov’s deputies, said. Borissov has not appeared after the exit polls, nor has he commented on Facebook.
Bikov also said that the political crisis will deepen.
However, voters and political analysts commented that the party’s leadership is talking illogically, without having any grounds for its dark predictions.
“The political future of Boyko Borissov does not depend on nothing. Gerb will go down faster than the BSP. This is a lasting trend that will continue,” magistrate Verginia Velcheva commented to Dnevnik news outlet.
Political analyst Daniel Smilov commented that Borissov’s political future is still uncertain.
“Gerb is facing a tough choice – the party has two paths: it will either attempt to keep Borissov or will seek a future without Borissov. They are a personalist party, connected to Borissov,” Smilov said.
At the same time, people who have supported the anti-establishment parties celebrated Gerb’s loss, hoping that its era has finally ended.
“I threw out some garbage today, and you,” Mariana, a ski teacher, wrote on Facebook.
Dozens of people commented they have decided to travel long distances, interrupting their holidays, to cast their ballots. Many of them were disappointed by the low turnout.