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Inside Story

Bulgaria: Voting to stave off chaos

A fragile political system, an ailing economy and a burdening EU membership weighs heavy on Bulgarian shoulders.

Last Modified: 14 May 2013 10:52
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Bulgaria is braced for further political instability as no clear winner has emerged from the country's general elections. It all comes against a backdrop of growing frustration over what many see as a fruitless European Union membership.

GERB is the winning party ... but it looks like they are going to leave power because they need at least one partner in parliament ... but all the three leaders of the other political parties declared that they will not negotiate at all with Mr Borisov, the leader of the GERB.

Ivan Bedrov, political analyst and journalist

The Balkan state is the poorest nation in the EU, and now threatens to be one of the most unstable. While the centre right GERB party has secured most of the votes, it is still short of the majority that is needed to form the government. Its main challenger is the socialist party, BSP. 

The key players in the election were:

  • The Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) - the centre right party of former Prime Minister Boiko Borisov that appears to have won the most votes
  • The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) - the main challenger of the GERB. It is the successor of the Bulgarian Communist Party and was in power for four years from 2005. It saw Bulgaria join the EU in 2007
  • The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) - the party that represents Bulgaria's ethnic Turkish minority.
  • The centrist Bulgaria of the Citizens - the party led by former European Commissioner Meglena Kuneva

The inconclusive election result and low voter turnout are a reminder that many Bulgarians are deeply unhappy with the politicians and the direction the country is going in.

Tens of thousands were out on the streets earlier this year, angry about rising poverty, corruption and falling living standards six years after it joined the EU.

Almost a quarter of Bulgarians - nearly 22 percent - now live below the official poverty line. The economy barely grew last year and foreign investment has slumped while unemployment is rising. Official statistics put the unemployment rate at 12 percent but analysts say the real figure is closer to 18 percent.

Meanwhile, the average Bulgarian wage - the lowest in the EU - is around 400 euros (just over $520) a month.

I think we are heading for months of political horse trading ... for me, a coalition will not be an easy task by any means and will require a very skillful political operator. 

Dimitar Bechev, head of the European Council on Foreign Relations

Bulgaria is not only the poorest country in the EU, it is also one of the most corrupt, having been rated the second-most corrupt country in the EU after Greece. 

One out of every four Bulgarians who dealt with doctors, the police and judges in 2001 bribed them for their services. Surveys show that Bulgarians gave about 150,000 bribes to civil servants every month in 2011. And recently, Bulgaria's former agriculture minister was charged with promising a bribe of $131,700 to a senior official and for favouring a food producer.

European and international surveys also show that corruption is discouraging investors.

There is no doubt about the huge problems that Bulgaria faces and, after this election, many questions remain about who can fix them.

Whoever comes to power in the Narodno Sabranie - the Bulgarian National Assembly - will have to deal with many issues including a huge public debt and rising anger over government austerity measures.

Inside Story, with presenter Shakuntala Santhiran, discusses Bulgaria's quest for political stability and economic prosperity with guests: Ivan Bedrov, a political analyst and journalist; Dimitar Bechev, a senior policy fellow and head of the European Council on Foreign Relations, who is the author of The Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Macedonia; and Vladimir Karolev, a Bulgarian economist and investment advisor for the Balkan Advisory Company.

"I think there are two options, one is a two-party coalition because it is still not clear the final election results, [which] will be announced on Thursday. And it might well be the case that the Socialist and the Turkish minority party would have a little bit more than 120 seats in the parliament, that would allow them to have a rather fragile majority - if that's not possible they will need to attack the right wing party." 

Vladimir Karolev, Bulgarian economist and investment advisor

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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