Bulgaria’s April 2021 parliamentary elections: What happens now?

Traditionally, with the exit polls in, this should be an article headlined “Bulgaria’s April 2021 parliamentary elections: Winners and losers”.

But, quite obviously, going by the headline above, it is not.

Connoisseurs not only of irony but also of recent Bulgarian political history will appreciate the fact that, according to Alpha Research, six per cent of those who turned out this past summer to protest for the resignation of Boiko Borissov’s GERB-led government voted, this day April 4 2021, for it to stay in office.

In point of fact, all we may take away from April 4 is that some gained and some lost.

Soon after voting ended, Maya Manolova, a leader of the coalition with the anti-government protest movement The Poison Trio of this past summer, insisted that Borissov’s GERB had lost, and that the “protest vote” had won.

Yes, but. Borissov’s GERB, although the share of seats projected for it by Alpha Research is 70 compared with the 95 it won in 2017, remains the party with a plurality of seats.

In summer 2020, Manolova put herself front and centre in the anti—government protests. For all that, she will have, if Alpha Research’s exit poll is correct, all of 12 seats. Democratic Bulgaria, effectively led by Hristo Ivanov, will have more than twice that, at 28.

Asked live on air by Bulgarian National Television why Ivanov had outdone her formation, Manolova had no clear answer. Nor, she said, would she be willing to be part of a governing coalition, nor seek to form one. (Here’s a tip, based on Bulgaria’s constitution and law – if all you got was 4.2 per cent, no one is very likely to invite you to form a government; not impossible, but neither very likely).

Compared with 2017, when Borissov’s GERB won 95 seats, it is projected by Alpha Research to now win 70.

GERB’s possible (italicise that) coalition partners are Krassimir Karakachanov’s ultra-nationalist VMRO, on the bubble at a projected four per cent; and Slavi Trifonov’s party, at a projected 41 seats. If Trifonov sells out his supposed anti-establishment platform, GERB, VMRO and his party would command 122 seats, enough to vote a government into office. Leaving aside the wild card that perhaps some of Trifonov’s elected MPs, if they realised that they had been sold a pup, might not drink the Kool-Aid.

I have taken too long to get to Kornelia Ninova’s Bulgarian Socialist Party. If there is any major loser, among major political parties, in this election, it is the faltering creature that Ninova has wrought of a party unable to win a plurality for more than two decades.

In 2017, the party that Ninova had led for less than a year won 80 seats. If Alpha Research is correct, it is now set for about 48. In the first fewer than two hours after the exit polls came out, Ninova herself did not appear to address the media; she sent proxies, to tell the hacks that a final verdict by the BSP on the election should await Central Election Commission official results.

I was immediately reminded of the Spike Milligan cartoon of the 1970s, of a corpse breaking out of a coffin, and shouting: “I want a second opinion”.

In short, no one has won this election, this chill day of April 2021 in Bulgaria. Democratic Bulgaria has exceeded expectations, almost doubling its projections in the polls just before voting day came. Whether that success propels it into government, or a position of influence, remains to be seen, and may never be seen at all. Asked, on television, about that issue, Ivanov equivocated. He is, after all, a lawyer; equivocation may be a matter of nature; prevarication, an art that attracts higher demand, if not higher demands.

To answer the question posed in the headline: What happens now? A lot of talk, negotiations, horse-trading, even if the horses are hobbled, and barring the most venal deal, a deal based on realpolitik and the abandonment of principles and promises, a parliamentary election night later in 2021; we shall meet precisely at this time and place, and discuss the matter.

Please support independent journalism by clicking on the orange button below. For as little as three euro a month or the equivalent in other currencies, you can support The Sofia Globe via patreon.com and get access to exclusive subscriber-only content:

Become a Patron!

Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.