Will conservative Boyko Borissov win a fourth term? Bulgarians began voting in the legislative elections on Sunday, a poll that could be marked by strong abstention as last summer’s protests against corruption fizzled out.
“I have always taken into account what the people decide (…) That the elections be fair”, declared Mr. Borissov after having voted in the absence of journalists.
“The immense support we have received from our counterparts in Europe shows the importance of a European and stable government in Bulgaria,” he said in a statement sent on Facebook.
The polling institutes favor the Gerb party of the controversial prime minister, crediting it with 28 to 29% of voting intentions, or about 75 seats in the Parliament made up of 240 elected representatives.
“It is the absence of other options due to a fragmented and unconvincing opposition that explains Gerb’s political hegemony”, invincible since 2009, analyzes political scientist Antony Todorov with AFP.
Refusing any contact with the media since the demonstrations, Mr. Borissov led his campaign on the social network Facebook where he broadcast his surprise visits on a daily basis, driving his 4×4, to the four corners of the country, to meet workers and employers. Its slogan: “Work, work, work! “.
Saturday, he had opted for silence: a photo showed him in a black suit, alone in a meadow enamelled with flowers, under the message “Sometimes it is better to be silent”.
An apparent serenity that contrasts with the tense atmosphere of a few months ago, when thousands of Bulgarians in the streets demanded his resignation, after a series of scandals.
The 61-year-old leader played for time, refusing to hold an early election, and took advantage of the movement’s decay due to winter and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The victory of his party, if it is confirmed in the ballot box, could however be tarnished by a low participation in an anxiety-provoking context in the middle of the third wave of contaminations.
Polling stations have, however, been set up in overwhelmed hospitals and mobile ballot boxes will be brought to families in quarantine.
The Socialists are expected in second position (20-22%), but divided, they should suffer from the reluctance of their elderly electorate to come and vote.
All eyes will be on the protest vote, shared between three new formations.
It is a television host, Slavi Trifonov, known for his harsh criticism of the government, who seems to be doing well (13%), even if he did not participate in the protests.
Among those who had marched, “Democratic Bulgaria” from the city right, supported by Bulgarians abroad, and “Stand up! Mafia outside ”(left), close to President Roumen Radev who called for a“ renewal ”, are about to enter Parliament (6% each).
Finally, we will have to reckon with the Turkish minority party MDL, the usual kingmaker (12%), and the VMRO nationalists, who participated in the outgoing government, but are losing ground.
The first estimates of the polls taken out of the polls are expected at the close of the polls at 8:00 p.m. (5:00 p.m. GMT), but the final official results will not be known until Thursday.
The phenomenon of vote buying by parties, which usually concerns between 5% and 19% of the vote, could increase, warned the NGO Anticorruption Fund earlier this week.
Because bribed voters will be motivated, unlike those who vote freely, likely to be deterred by the spread of COVID-19.
There are also suspicions of fraud linked to the duplicate presence on the electoral lists of Bulgarians living abroad, in case they come to vote in the country.