Exit polls indicate the party of conservative former Premier, Boyko Borisov, has come first in Bulgaria’s general election, the country’s fourth in 18 months, held amid mounting anxiety over soaring inflation and the impact of the Ukraine war.
Borisov’s GERB party won around 25 percent of the vote on Sunday, followed by the party of his centrist rival, Kiril Petkov, which won around 19 percent, according to exit polls.
However, 63-year-old veteran former Premier Borisov will face an uphill battle finding coalition partners.
According to Press TV, he has previously held power three times, and ran on a ticket of restoring calm and ending the worst period of political instability in Bulgaria’s post-communist history.
While endemic corruption was the focus of the previous vote last November, economic woes are now top of voters’ concerns.
The European Union’s poorest member state is battling annual inflation of close to 20 percent.
Sunday’s vote was marked by a lack of enthusiasm, with turnout on just 25 percent at 4:00 p.m. local time (13:00 GMT).
On Sunday Borisov argued that he was Bulgaria’s “most experienced” politician and stressed the country’s European Union and NATO allegiances.
The Balkan country has been dogged by political instability since early last year, when GERB lost power following massive anti-corruption demonstrations.
Borisov’s rival, outgoing reformist Premier Kiril Petkov, had urged voters to let him “continue the change” his government had initiated on an anti-corruption platform.
The Harvard-educated former entrepreneur stormed onto the political scene in 2021, but his precarious four-party coalition was toppled in a no-confidence motion after just seven months.
Petkov urged people on Sunday “to make the important choice… to move forward towards a new, prosperous, capable and transformed Bulgaria.
His government had offered substantial rises in pensions and Petkov said he was planning a rise of the average salary in Bulgaria, which now stands at 870 euros ($853), the lowest in the 27-nation EU.
Petkov has categorically ruled out forming a coalition with Borisov, heightening fears the vote may fail to end the country’s political turmoil.