Bulgaria Watch: Inappropriate moment for political instability

The April 4 elections reflected society's energy for change. However, a new government could not be formed. Thus, Bulgaria is in a period of political instability against the background of the Covid-19 pandemic, political turbulence in the region, the green deal in the EU, etc.

Would early elections lead to government?

On the regular general elections on 4 April 6 parties and coalitions crossed the 4% barrier and entered the parliament (turnout reached 50.6%, slightly below the usual). Three of them were new ones (ITN, Democratic Bulgaria and Stand Up! Mafia out!) with a total of 91 out of the 240 seats in the National Assembly, representing the protest vote against the status quo and the GERB party (EPP Member), which had been ruling in three coalition governments for the last 10 years with a short interruption.

On the elections, GERB won once again the most votes scoring 75 seats in the new parliament. However, it fell into political isolation and failed to form a fourth government. The second most representative party with 51 seats was the ITN of the TV-showman Trifonov, which had appeared recently and based on an anti-GERB campaign surprisingly achieved an impressive election result. They directly returned the mandate to form a government to the president, as they did not want to rely on support by status quo parties (GERB, DPS and the Socialists) in the parliament. In accordance with the constitution, the president chose to hand over the mandate to form a government to the Socialists, who were the third parliamentary fraction with 43 members of parliament. They also returned the mandate and the country returns again to a pre-election situation: early elections were scheduled on July 11, the 45th National Assembly was dissolved, remaining in history as the shortest-working parliament, and the president appointed a caretaker government to organize the new elections and to govern until a regular government will be elected by the new parliament.

In this situation, the results of the early elections on July 11 are difficult to predict. GERB representation could be expected to shrink slightly due to their secession from the state power and the negative information about their governance announced by the caretaker government. However, such a contraction would not be dramatic, because GERB holds most of the local authorities and bank on solid party structures. The ITN relies on an emotional anti status quo vote, has no party structures and a clear pragmatic ruling program. The fact that they could not form a government may disappoint some voters, but otherwise ITN remained true to their campaign promises not to work with status quo parties. It is possible that they will overtake GERB if they hold back the emotional vote for change and show more substance about realistic steps in that direction. The Socialists are likely to somewhat raise their score because some of their voters did not vote because of the pandemic, which will be different in the summer. It is likely also that Democratic Bulgaria will to some extent increase its result by taking the vote in the cities, mostly in Sofia, while the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) most likely will keep its representation. The presence of small parties in the new parliament is the most difficult to predict and surprises are expected here. The new parliament will be once more fragmented, whereby the formation of a government will be hard again depending on the ability for establishing political compromise