Messy elections in Bulgaria: An attempt for a read-out

A look at the delicate political negotiations of Bulgaria's 2014 parliamentary elections.  

For the first time in Bulgaria’s post-'89 history, eight parties will enter the 240-seat parliament. The complicated choreography of the negotiations necessary for building the government is still in the air, but one thing is clear: it will be messier than ever and will require more fortitude and political responsibility from the parties.

The biggest share of the exercise goes to the centre-right GERB of former Prime Minister (2009-2013) Boyko Borissov. Although he scored high – more than twice the votes of his main rival, the Bulgarian Socialist Party – Borissov will not enjoy a comfortable plurality. With only 84 MPs, GERB will be forced to strike a coalition with one or even two parties. A centre-right coalition with the Reformist Block (RB) would be ideologically the most logical one but appears increasingly difficult due to personality issues. The Block’s leaders declared they were ready to negotiate under the condition that Borissov would not be the Prime Minister of the joint government, which was met by a fierce reaction from GERB. “Small parties have to make big concessions, big parties make small concessions,” Borissov stated yesterday.

If this scenario of the crumbling of the centre-right persists, it will trigger a silent coalition of GERB with DPS, the party of the ethnic Turks, which became notorious for its deep-rooted ties with oligarchy and participated in the largely unpopular government of Oresharski in the last year. Another alternative would be a pact with the socialists, along the German model of ‘grand coalition’, but this would end up having the same deficit of legitimacy as the pact with DPS, and for similar reasons.

If looked at from afar, the current parliamentary setup in Bulgaria is not much different from situations in other countries. But the crisis of legitimacy of at least two of the main parties – BSP and DPS, together with the radicalism of some of the minor ones, including the nationalist Ataka and the National Front, as well as the clearly corporate-populist group, Bulgaria Without Censorship (BWC), around the former journalist Nikolay Barekov – make it unusually difficult to find an optimal solution to the conundrum.

Difficult reforms in healthcare, education and the retirement system are long due; decisions over if and how to build the South Stream pipeline and how to stabilise the budget and the banking system after the collapse of Corporate Trade Bank are pressing.

The Bulgarian politicians understand that new elections would only deepen the problem and not alleviate it, and that the voters expect a swift turnaround of the situation the country is in. When the negotiations for forming the next (even if short-lived) government of Bulgaria commence next Monday, the parties concerned will have to act in the interest of the public, and not in their own – big and small.

Vessela Tcherneva is Wider Europe Programme Director at ECFR and Co-Founder of Sofia Platform. 


The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.


Deputy Director
Head, ECFR Sofia

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