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July 8, 2021

Europe

BULGARIA: ITN to lead coalition government after Sunday’s snap election

BY Andrius Tursa

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Although the early general election on 11 July will see a close race between the center right Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) and the populist newcomer There Are Such People (ITN) party, the latter holds best chances of leading a reform-oriented coalition government after the vote.

The snap vote will see 23 electoral lists competing for 240 mandates in a unicameral parliament under a proportional system in 31 multi-member constituencies. To enter parliament, both parties and electoral coalitions need to pass a 4% threshold. Changes to electoral law adopted in May eliminated the limit on the number of polling stations abroad and expanded the use of machine voting stations with more than 300 voters, which should expedite vote count.

The election will take place in the context of long-standing public disillusionment with political elites over alleged corruption and abuse of power. These negative perception has been reinforced by multiple inquiries into actions of the previous Boyko Borisov’s GERB-led government launched by the current caretaker cabinet led by Stefan Yanev (independent) as well as the decision by the US Department of Treasury to sanction three influential Bulgarian oligarchs and 64 entities over engagement in corruption.

BULGARIA: ITN to lead coalition government after Sunday’s snap election 1

Allegations of involvement in corruption have lowered public support for GERB to around 21-22%, down from the 25.8% it received in the April vote. GERB now polls virtually on par with ITN, which continued to rise in popularity despite its rather muted election campaign. The center-left Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP)-led list ranks third, although its performance will depend on turnout of its predominantly elderly and rural electorate. While the Movement for the Rights and Freedoms (MRF) maintains a stable voter base of around 10-11%, it could benefit from the greater number of polling stations abroad, as it enjoys an overwhelming support from the Bulgarians living in Turkey. Other anti-corruption-focused electoral lists, such as Democratic Bulgaria (DB) and Stand Up! Thugs Out! (IS.BG), are likely to perform better than in the April vote too. Although a far-right alliance Bulgarian Patriots (BP) and a nationalist Revival party poll below the 4% threshold, their entry to parliament cannot be completely ruled out.

Unless the election results significantly diverge from pre-election polling, the vote will likely result in a coalition government led by ITN (80% probability). In contrast to its position during the April election, ITN has already voiced its readiness to form a government after the vote. The ITN’s most likely coalition partners are two other political newcomers – DB and IS.BG. If the three parties combined fail to win a majority of seats (121/240) in parliament, they could expect informal backing from BSP and MRF.

If for any reason ITN fails to form a coalition government, the most likely alternative would be a technocratic cabinet (15% probability) supported by a wide range of parties in parliament. Such a cabinet would likely have a clearly defined mandate and timeframe. Meanwhile, another early election – already third this year – appears very unlikely (5% probability) as this would push the country into even deeper political crisis, especially with the presidential elections scheduled for October/November. Despite its still relatively high popularity, Borisov’s GERB has virtually no chances of forming the next government due to lack of potential coalition partners.

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