Bulgaria’s GERB declares election victory, Socialists concede

Boiko Borisov’s centre-right GERB party (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria) has a clear mandate to form Bulgaria’s next government following a parliamentary election on Sunday, March 26.

Bulgarians headed to the polls for the third time in four years for a snap election that was expected to test the nation’s divided loyalties between Russia and the European Union.

The poll was triggered in another snap election in November, after GERB’s candidate lost to the pro-Russian general, Rumen Radev, of the Bulgaria Socialist Party. Borisov who was prime minister at the time tendered the resignation of his Cabinet.

The March 26 exit polls showed GERB had won 33 percent of the vote, with the pro-Russian Bulgaria Socialist Party (BSP) trailing at 28 percent.

The BSP has conceded defeat, but the party’s leader Kornelia Ninova said she would look at options for forming a government “for the sake of its stability and the upcoming EU presidency,” should GERB find it cannot do so.

Bulgaria takes over the European Union’s rotating six-month presidency in January 2018.

While Bulgaria historically has had strong ties with Moscow, GERB is strongly pro-EU and has supported the bloc’s sanctions on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

However, Bulgaria remains almost entirely reliant on Russian energy supplies.

Without enough votes to govern alone, Borisov will likely court the United Patriots to form a coalition. The United Patriots won votes thanks to widespread anger over the flow of migrants from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia trying to reach western Europe via the Balkans.

“I hope the government will be formed quickly in calm and quiet negotiations. This government should meet the expectations of people at home and abroad, in the present severe international situation,” Borisov said.