The centre-right party led by Boyko Borisov, a former prime minister, was poised to win Bulgaria’s general election on Sunday night while falling well short of an outright victory, according to projections of the final result.
The Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (Gerb) party would capture 32.9 per cent of the vote to 16.5 per cent for the Bulgarian Socialist party, according to projections by Alpha Research, a Sofia pollster, based on results from more than 50 per cent of polling stations around the country.
Such a result, if confirmed, would give Gerb only 85 seats in the 240-member parliament, forcing Mr Borisov to seek more than one coalition partner in order to form a government.
“I am ready to govern the country because we [Gerb] are the best prepared to do so,” Mr Borisov said as the vote count reached the halfway mark.
Only 49 per cent of voters, the lowest percentage in two decades, turned out for the election, reflecting broad-based discontent with politicians from all parties over a stagnating economy, declining standards of education and healthcare, and widespread corruption in public life.
The vote was prompted by the minority socialist government’s resignation in July after only a year in office, following months of street protests and a weak performance at the European parliament elections in May.
Maya Manolova, a former deputy speaker of parliament, conceded defeat on behalf of the socialists, saying: “It’s a fact that the people have punished us. The results are clear.”
However, the prospect of a post-election stalemate loomed, as Mr Borisov immediately ruled out a coalition with the socialists or with the third-placed Movement for Rights and Freedoms, a pro-business ethnic Turkish party. He also sounded doubtful about co-operation with the Reformist Bloc, a new alliance of small centre-right parties.
Leaders of the Reformist Bloc, which was projected to win 9 per cent of the vote and 23 seats, said during the campaign they were willing to join a Gerb-led coalition on condition that Mr Borisov agreed not to serve as prime minister.
“Who else can be prime minister … [If] They don’t want me, what am I supposed to do?” Mr Borisov said. “I ask my colleagues, the party leaders, to consider the results soberly before making grand statements … I am not posing any conditions.”
Yet Gerb would be unlikely to find allies among four splinter groups – three nationalist and one left-of-centre – set to enter parliament with a handful of seats each after narrowly exceeding the electoral threshold of 4 per cent of the vote.
Petar Moskov, a leading member of the Reformist Bloc, signalled on Sunday that the alliance was hardening its position, saying it would back policies rather than parties in negotiations for a coalition.
“New policies should be made by new faces … We don’t intend to support either Gerb or Mr Borisov,” Mr Moskov said.
Gerb finished first at the previous parliamentary election in 2013 but Mr Borisov handed back his mandate to form a government after failing to form a coalition, opening the way for the socialists to form a minority government.