Bulgarian Commission Confirms Pro-EU Party's Snap Election Win

  • Gerb gets 95 lawmakers, Socialists 80, commission said
  • Gerb may start government talks, cabinet seen within a month

Bulgaria’s Electoral Commission confirmed the election victory of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, opening the way for his Gerb party to form its third cabinet in eight years and maintain the Black Sea nation’s pro-European path.

Gerb will have 95 lawmakers in the 240-member parliament after the March 26 snap vote, while the more pro-Russian Socialists, successors to the Communist Party, got 80 lawmakers, the Central Electoral Commission said Thursday in Sofia, the capital. The third-placed United Patriots, a nationalist group that’s the most likely partner for an alliance with Gerb, got 27 seats. Voter turnout was 54 percent.

“Composing the government won’t be easy nor fast, even though we know who’ll be the partners in a possible coalition,” Dimitar Ganev, an analyst at Trend Research Center in Sofia, said by phone. “We may expect a Gerb-led cabinet within a month.”

Bulgaria, a European Union and NATO member of 7.2 million people, is looking to end the political upheaval that’s brought a spate of elections and restrained the economy. While Gerb and the Socialists campaigned to revive business ties with Russia, Borissov didn’t join his rival’s calls to veto the bloc’s sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s government.

Many Challenges

“Let’s give the parties time to find the best solution for Bulgaria,” President Rumen Radev said in an emailed statement. “We face many challenges.”

The prospect of the next government serving out its full-term appears unlikely, Fitch Ratings said in a report March 28. However, Bulgaria will hold the six-month rotating presidency of the EU from next January, which may give a coalition a strong incentive to remain intact until at least mid-2018, according to Fitch.

Borissov, 57, was a former bodyguard of Bulgaria’s last communist dictator Todor Zhivkov and of former king and ex-Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. 

He may need to make policy concessions in future coalition talks with the nationalist United Patriots, who themselves are an alliance of three parties with a history of infighting. Gerb wants to maintain the 10 percent flat income tax rate and a balanced fiscal policy in the EU’s poorest nation, while the nationalists want higher spending on pensions and social benefits.

Borissov may also opt for a minority cabinet with occasional support of the Will party of tycoon Vesselin Mareshki, which has 12 lawmakers, Ganev said. The parliament will need to convene by the end of April, according to the constitution.

The yield on Bulgaria’s euro-denominated bonds maturing in September 2024 fell 0.5 basis points to 1.469 percent, the lowest level in five months, at 1:41 p.m. in Sofia, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“The EU has dodged a bullet in the Bulgarian elections” with Borissov’s victory, the European Council on Foreign Relations said in a report. “He is likely to do his best to be constructive within the EU.”

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