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Voter apathy in Bulgaria opens the door for pro-Russian groups

SOFIA – Voter apathy dominated Bulgaria’s snap election on Sunday, raising the prospect of another fractured parliament struggling to form a viable governing coalition.

The EU country’s fourth election in 18 months has been marked by turbulent war, political instability and economic hardship in the bloc’s poorest member.

About 6.6 million people had the right to vote for 240 legislators in the parliament. By 5 p.m., voter turnout was almost 30 percent, which is less than in the previous elections. Analysts attribute this to the fatigue of voters and the disappointment of politicians who could not create a viable government coalition.

Polls ahead of the vote suggest that up to eight parties could clear the 4% barrier to enter a fragmented parliament where populist and pro-Russian groups could increase their representation.

These snap elections followed a fragile coalition led by a pro-Western prime minister In June, Kiril Pyatkov lost a vote of no confidence. He later claimed that Moscow had used “hybrid warfare” tactics to topple his government after it refused to pay gas bills in rubles and ordered the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Bulgaria.

The low turnout favors three-time former prime minister Boyko Borisov’s GERB party, which is likely to remain first because it can still count on a loyal base.

After the vote on Sunday, Borissov told reporters that Bulgaria should clearly position its position regarding Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

“With this aggression, with this war with the obvious aggressor in the person of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin – (I have) nothing against the Russian people – with this farce of referendums, Bulgaria must be very clear, categorical and clear about its place in the European Union and NATO,” he said, adding that Bulgaria’s entry into the 19-state eurozone with Europe’s common currency should be its first, most important task.

However, the projected percentage will not be enough for Borissov’s party to form a one-party government, and the chances of a GERB-led coalition are slim as most opponents accuse it of years of corruption.

Petkov dismissed the latest polls as dubious and expressed confidence that the vote would bring positive results for his party.

“Today’s election is very important. The choice is between returning to the transitional years or breaking with this period once and for all and heading for a new prosperous and reformed Bulgaria,” he said after the vote.

Petkov ran on promises to form a coalition and continue his efforts to root out corruption, but painful reforms may be hard to swallow amid a European energy crisis caused by Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Many Bulgarians share pro-Russian sentiments, which creates fertile ground for aggressive Kremlin propaganda in the Balkan country.

The pro-Russian party “Vazrazhdane”, which is guided by such feelings, attracts many voters. The latest opinion polls predict that she will win 12.8% of the vote, compared to 4.9% in the previous election.

“After these elections, Bulgaria will have two options for the future – either it will radically change its development path and get a chance for survival, or ‘God save Bulgaria,'” party leader Kastadin Kastadinov said on Sunday.

In contrast to the position of the EU, Kostadinov called for “complete neutrality” of Bulgaria in the war in Ukraine.

The first results of the exit polls will be announced after the polls close at 20:00, and preliminary results are expected on Monday.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, copied or distributed without permission.

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Voter apathy in Bulgaria opens the door for pro-Russian groups

SOFIA – Voter apathy dominated Bulgaria’s snap election on Sunday, raising the prospect of another fractured parliament struggling to form a viable governing coalition.

The EU country’s fourth election in 18 months has been marked by turbulent war, political instability and economic hardship in the bloc’s poorest member.

About 6.6 million people had the right to vote for 240 legislators in the parliament. By 5 p.m., voter turnout was almost 30 percent, which is less than in the previous elections. Analysts attribute this to the fatigue of voters and the disappointment of politicians who could not create a viable government coalition.

Polls ahead of the vote suggest that up to eight parties could clear the 4% barrier to enter a fragmented parliament where populist and pro-Russian groups could increase their representation.

These snap elections followed a fragile coalition led by a pro-Western prime minister In June, Kiril Pyatkov lost a vote of no confidence. He later claimed that Moscow had used “hybrid warfare” tactics to topple his government after it refused to pay gas bills in rubles and ordered the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Bulgaria.

The low turnout favors three-time former prime minister Boyko Borisov’s GERB party, which is likely to remain first because it can still count on a loyal base.

After the vote on Sunday, Borissov told reporters that Bulgaria should clearly position its position regarding Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

“With this aggression, with this war with the obvious aggressor in the person of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin – (I have) nothing against the Russian people – with this farce of referendums, Bulgaria must be very clear, categorical and clear about its place in the European Union and NATO,” he said, adding that Bulgaria’s entry into the 19-state eurozone with Europe’s common currency should be its first, most important task.

However, the projected percentage will not be enough for Borissov’s party to form a one-party government, and the chances of a GERB-led coalition are slim as most opponents accuse it of years of corruption.

Petkov dismissed the latest polls as dubious and expressed confidence that the vote would bring positive results for his party.

“Today’s election is very important. The choice is between returning to the transitional years or breaking with this period once and for all and heading for a new prosperous and reformed Bulgaria,” he said after the vote.

Petkov ran on promises to form a coalition and continue his efforts to root out corruption, but painful reforms may be hard to swallow amid a European energy crisis caused by Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Many Bulgarians share pro-Russian sentiments, which creates fertile ground for aggressive Kremlin propaganda in the Balkan country.

The pro-Russian party “Vazrazhdane”, which is guided by such feelings, attracts many voters. The latest opinion polls predict that she will win 12.8% of the vote, compared to 4.9% in the previous election.

“After these elections, Bulgaria will have two options for the future – either it will radically change its development path and get a chance for survival, or ‘God save Bulgaria,'” party leader Kastadin Kastadinov said on Sunday.

In contrast to the position of the EU, Kostadinov called for “complete neutrality” of Bulgaria in the war in Ukraine.

The first results of the exit polls will be announced after the polls close at 20:00, and preliminary results are expected on Monday.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, copied or distributed without permission.

Reported by Source link

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