Bulgaria’s Controversial Premier Wins Election But Future Uncertain
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – The party of Bulgaria’s longtime prime minister leading the European Union’s ranked “most corrupt nation” has won parliamentary elections but without enough votes to govern alone, initial official results showed.
Boyko Borissov, 61, was quick to hold out the olive branch to his political opponents. That gesture cake after exit polls gave his populist center-right GERB party a quarter of the vote.
With most votes counted, results showed that there is such a nation” party lead by prominent TV entertainer Slavi Trifonov came in second with about percent of the vote. The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party was third with about 15 percent of ballots cast.
Borissov, who has governed Bulgaria with an iron fist for most of the last 11 years, urged his opponents to join a government of experts supported by a broad parliamentary majority.
“I offer you peace, let us appoint the experts, and until December, we can overcome the [coronavirus] pandemic and move forward. That is my offer to all of you. Let us choose the best people to do the job. United, we are strong,” he said.
They aren’t exactly standing in line to govern with a man implicated in several corruption scandals that prompted months of street protests.
The opposition accused Borissov of befriending local oligarchs and funneling EU aid to businesses close to GERB, allegations he denies.
Borissov, who was previously a bodyguard to Bulgaria’s communist leader Todor Zhivkov, also denied international money laundering allegations. The holder of a black belt in karate
accused opponents of seeking his political knockout and denied charges of wrongdoing despite leaked recordings.
Photographs were later sent to media of Borissov asleep with a gun on his bedside table and a drawer full of cash and gold. He conceded that the photo of him sleeping in the prime minister’s residence could be accurate but suggested that the money’s image had been superimposed.
Borissov claims the opposition doesn’t want to acknowledge that he led his impoverished Balkan nation of nearly 7-million people through migration, economic and coronavirus crisis.
His government also managed a 36 percent increase in the average monthly salary to 1,468 levs ($882). He kept public debt low and secured entry to the “waiting room” for joining the euro currency.
But his government’s failure to tackle endemic corruption and reform the judiciary ensured that many voters turned his back to him on Easter Sunday.
Political commentators predicted weeks of talks to form a viable coalition and did not exclude another election possibility. President Rumen Radev, a vocal critic of Borissov, urged Bulgarians to turn Sunday’s election into the first step toward a return to laws and rules.
“I voted against the collapse of statehood, lawlessness, and corruption and for a free, just, and prosperous Bulgaria,” he said Sunday after voting.
Bulgaria, which joined NATO in 2004 and the European Union in 2007, has been repeatedly criticized for not tackling corruption and for deficiencies in the rule of law and media freedom.
Transparency International has ranked Bulgaria consistently as the most corrupt EU nation. And a recent U.S. State Department report on human rights highlights severe judicial independence and media freedom problems in the country.
The Central Election Commission said voter turnout Sunday was less than half of eligible voters, a smaller showing than in previous elections. Some 6.7 million people had been eligible to cast ballots for 240 legislators.
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