Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party took the largest share of votes in the country’s European Parliament elections on May 26 2019, according to the results of exit polls released just after voting closed.
The Alpha Research agency showed GERB at 32.7 per cent, Kornelia Ninova’s Bulgarian Socialist Party at 23.2 per cent, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms at 13.6 per cent, the ultra-nationalist VMRO at seven per cent and the reformist Democratic Bulgaria at 5.9 per cent.
If confirmed by official results, this would put these five formations past the 5.88 per cent threshold need to win one of Bulgaria’s 17 seats in the European Parliament.
Unofficial estimates of the seat allocations would be GERB seven, BSP five, MRF three, VMRO one and Democratic Bulgaria one.
The Central Election Commission estimated turnout as of 5pm at 26.22 per cent, of the total more than 6.3 million Bulgarians eligible to vote in the country’s fourth European Parliament elections. Polls closed at 8pm. Alpha Research said that turnout was 28.8 per cent as at 7pm.
Bulgaria’s European Parliament election vote came at the close of a three-day long weekend, the result of a public holiday on May 24, and at the close of generally lacklustre campaigns that had much less to do with EU-level issues than domestic political squabbling.
For GERB, the result – going by the exit polls – was a major comeback from the time when the official campaign period started and Borissov’s party was on the backfoot over controversies around cut-price real estate acquisitions involving ruling party politicians.
However, as the campaign period unfolded, Borissov put his foot flat on the accelerator – nominally, in his capacity as head of government, rather than as a partisan campaigner – with high-profile media appearances visiting infrastructure projects to boost a positive profile for his party, which ran on its record in government.
Against this, Ninova’s BSP, who sought to push its lead candidate, former journalist Elena Yoncheva, as a corruption-fighter, and by extension, GERB and the ruling majority as endemically corrupt. As has been the case in recent years, the BSP gained, relatively, only in the days that GERB shed support. Ninova, if the exit polls are confirmed, failed to extend the BSP footprint beyond its traditional, and ageing, electorate.
The VMRO will return its hard-right ultra-nationalist MEP Angel Dzhambazki to the European Parliament, while the reformist Democratic Bulgaria appears to have exceeded the earlier expectations of pollsters. Democratic Bulgaria, however, was taking a cautious approach on election night, announcing that it would hold a post-match news conference only on May 27, once results were firmer.
(Main photo: EC Audiovisual Service)