Bulgarian former prime minister Boyko Borissov poses as he casts his vote at a polling station in Bankya, on the outskirts of Sofia, Bulgaria, April 2, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)
SOFIA – Bulgaria looked set on Monday for lengthy and difficult coalition talks after a parliamentary election, the fifth in two years, again failed to produce a clear winner.
A bloc led by the center-right GERB party of former prime minister Boyko Borissov won 26.5 percent of votes in Sunday's election, while a pro-Western reformist bloc led by We Continue the Change (PP) had 24.9 percent, according to preliminary results based on 96 percent of ballots counted.
The nationalist Revival party, which is sympathetic to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Ukraine conflict, took third place with 14.4 percent, up several percentage points from the previous election last October.
Bulgaria's prolonged political deadlock, caused mainly by personal animosity among leaders of the two main blocs, has already forced the country to delay its target date for adopting the euro, and it has yet to approve a budget bill for 2023
The ethnic Turkish MRF was in fourth place with 13 percent and the Bulgarian Socialist Party, heir to the once powerful Communist Party, had 9 percent.
Bulgaria's prolonged political deadlock, caused mainly by personal animosity among leaders of the two main blocs, has already forced the country to delay its target date for adopting the euro, and it has yet to approve a budget bill for 2023.
READ MORE: Bulgaria gears up for its fifth election in two years on April 2
The uncertainty has also hampered Bulgaria's ability to harness EU post-pandemic recovery funds, and analysts and voters fear the messy outcome of Sunday's contest could eventually lead to yet another election being held later this year.
"There will be another election, so I am not expecting much (from these results). Perhaps a government of experts should be formed," said Lyubomir Ranov, a 47-year-old interior designer in the capital Sofia on Monday when asked about the results.
Bulgarian voters have grown weary of their politicians' failure to set aside their differences and cooperate on putting together a government able to tackle a cost of living crisis and root out rampant corruption.
"A government has to be formed in the end because we have been going to elections now for two years. State funds are being drained to finance these elections, yet they could have been used for entirely different purposes," said Shishman Shishmanov, 30, a financial broker.
The PP and its ally Democratic Bulgaria accuse GERB of presiding over rampant corruption in the EU's poorest member state during their decade-long rule that ended in April 2021, something that Borissov denies.
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For some voters, Borissov, a political veteran, could help restore a measure of stability in Bulgaria amid soaring inflation and geopolitical concerns spurred by the Ukraine conflict. But PP/DB have so far ruled out a coalition with GERB.
Both Borissov and Kiril Petkov, the 42-year-old, Harvard-educated leader of PP, want Bulgaria, a NATO member albeit with close historic and cultural ties to Russia, to maintain its pro-Ukraine stance in the conflict.
For much of the past two years, Bulgaria has been ruled by technocratic caretaker governments appointed by President Rumen Radev.
The official final results of Sunday's election are expected by April 6 at the latest. Radev has promised to move quickly to invite the leader of whichever party has won most votes to launch coalition talks.