Bulgaria Vote Leaves Gerb Short of Majority, Results Show

Bulgaria’s former ruling party, Gerb, fell short of a parliamentary majority in early elections in the European Union’s poorest country.

Gerb, led by former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, took 30.7 percent of the vote, compared with 27.6 percent for the Bulgarian Socialist Party, according to preliminary results based on 99.3 percent of the ballots counted, the Central Electoral Commission said on its website today.

Bulgaria was thrown into turmoil in February by anti-austerity protests that echoed unrest across Europe. The next Cabinet needs to build a coalition willing to boost growth and continue budget cuts after unemployment rose to an eight-year high and violent protests against poverty, graft and high utility bills forced Borissov out of office on Feb. 20.

“A hung parliament seems most likely at this stage, and it could result in set protests which originally forced this election in February,” Timothy Ash, chief emerging-markets economist at Standard Bank Group Ltd. in London, said in an e-mailed note yesterday, before results were released.

The yield on Eurobonds maturing in July 2017 rose four basis points to 1.7143 percent at 4:12 p.m. in Sofia today.

The cost of insuring the country’s debt with credit-default swaps rose 3.88 percent to 97.29, after falling 8 percent on May 8, the lowest intraday level since Jan. 8, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Sofix stock index fell 0.2 percent to 407.69.

Seat Distribution

Gerb, which stands for Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria, would get about 97 seats in the 240-seat Parliament, with about 85 seats going to the Socialists, Alpha Research polling company said, which conducted exit polls and estimated that Gerb would win 31.1 percent of the vote, compared with 27.1 percent for the Socialists. Gerb controlled 117 seats in the previous Parliament, where the Socialists had 40 seats.

The Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which represents the ethnic Turks in the Balkan country, won 10.45 percent, which is close to the 11 percent with 34 seats estimated by Alpha Research. The radical nationalist Attack party got 7.4 percent, the Central Electoral Commission said, close to Alpha Research’s estimate of 7.5 percent, or about 24 seats.

Coalition Talks

“We will start coalition talks after the final results are announced and the mandate to form a Cabinet is handed to our leader Boyko Borissov,” Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Gerb’s chairman and former deputy prime minister, said on state television yesterday. “We won’t be able to discuss cooperation with the Socialists after all the aggression and animosity.”

He declined to name possible coalition partners. Borissov was the only political leader who didn’t hold a press conference after the election.

The Socialists and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms said they are prepared to form a coalition Cabinet, while Attack said that no government can be formed with the composition of the new Parliament. The Movement ruled out a coalition with Gerb.

“Gerb is in complete isolation, the results show the beginning of a slow death for Gerb,” Socialist leader Sergei Stanishev said at a press conference broadcast by state television earlier today. “We are beginning urgent talks with the two parliamentary forces on the nature of the new government and its program, which must lead Bulgaria out of the crisis.”

Socialists, MRF

The Socialists proposed the new Cabinet to be led by former Finance Minister Plamen Oresharski, who said that the most urgent measures are to boost budget revenue by curbing contraband and speeding up reimbursement of value-added tax to businesses.

“We must prevent the deepening of the political crisis in Bulgaria,” Lyutfi Mestan, the leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, said at a separate press conference. “We must find a quick formula for a stable government.”

Attack leader Volen Siderov said he will only support a government that would “free Bulgaria of the colonial rule of international monopolies.”

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Party of European Socialists are among the seven international and 19 local organizations that stationed election monitors at polling stations following reports of vote buying during presidential elections in October. Voter turnout was 41.3 percent at 5:30 p.m. in the capital Sofia yesterday, the Central Electoral Commission said.

Street Protest

About 50 protesters scuffled with the police in central Sofia, outside the National Palace of Culture, where the press conferences with the election winners were held. They were protesting against Gerb’s re-election, burning torches and carrying national flags.

“These elections were manipulated,”Socialist spokesman Angel Naidenov said on state television. “There was widespread vote buying.”

Bulgarian police found 350,000 ballots in excess of the amount ordered by the government in the Multiprint printing house in the town of Kostinbrod near Sofia, the Central Election Commission said on its website yesterday. The extra ballots were placed under police protection.

Bulgarian prosecutors are investigating 17 cases of alleged vote buying, the Office of the Chief Prosecutor in Sofia said on its website yesterday.