Splintered election poses challenge to Bulgaria's leader

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Arben Llapashtica

In this photo released by the GERZB Party, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov casts his ballot during parliamentary elections in the town of during the parliamentary elections in the town of Bankya, Bulgaria, Sunday, April 4, 2021. Bulgarians are heading to the polls on Sunday to cast ballots for a new parliament after months of anti-government protests and amid a surge of coronavirus infections. (GERB Party via AP)

SOFIA – The center-right party of Bulgaria’s longtime prime minister led the results from the country's parliamentary election, the central electoral commission said Monday, and a new anti-establishment party was in second place.

With 72% of ballots counted, the ruling GERB party had 25.8% of the vote. The There is Such Nation party led by popular TV entertainer Slavi Trifonov came in second with 18.2%. The Socialist Party was in third place with 14.9%.

In another sign of a divided electorate, the liberal anti-corruption group Democratic Bulgaria received 10% support and the ethnic Turkish MRF party garnered 9%. The center-left Stand Up! Mafia Out! alliance, which emerged after anti-government protests last year, got 5%.

The fragmented tally so far would leave Prime Minister Boyko Borissov unable to form a fourth Cabinet on its own, and he faces an uphill task in finding allies with whom to form a stable government.

Borissov, 61, who has led the populist GERB party since its founding in 2006, has governed Bulgaria with an iron grip for most of the last 11 years.

Most political groups have already rejected the idea of cooperating with GERB. Experts predicted it would take weeks of talks to form a viable coalition, and they did not exclude the possibility of another election.

“For the first time in 11 years, a very powerful populist force like There Is Such Nation will be in parliament, meaning that a period of political instability is ahead of us,” political analyst Ognyan Minchev said.

“This is the start of a very dynamic political change in Bulgaria, which will go through two or three elections, and the next ones are around the corner,” he added.

Borissov called on his opponents to work with him to form a broad-based governing coalition.

In a statement on Facebook, Borissov hinted at the idea of forming a government of experts supported by a broad parliamentary majority.

“I offer you peace. Let us appoint the experts and until December, we can overcome the pandemic and move forward," he wrote. "That is my offer to all of you. Let us choose the best people to do the job. United we are strong.”

It could take until Thursday before the final official results are announced.