Bulgaria’s veteran political bruiser Boyko Borisov to begin talks to form new government after electoral win

March 27, 2017 7:30 pm

Head of the
center-right GERB party and former prime minister speaks
to media after his party won the country’s parliamentary elections, in
Sofia, , March 26, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Bulgaria’s veteran political
bruiser Boyko Borisov was due Monday to begin tough talks to form a
lasting government and become prime minister for the third time.

On
Sunday, Borisov’s pro-European Union (EU), center-right GERB Party came
first in snap elections in the EU’s poorest country with 33 percent of
the vote, according to projections from polling firms.
The burly
Borisov, a former firefighter and bodyguard, saw off a stiff challenge
from the Socialist Party (BSP), seen as closer to Moscow, which garnered
28 percent.
“I hope we can ensure the rapid formation of a
government that responds to the wishes of the people and to the grave
international situation,” Borisov said late Sunday.
But whether
the 57-year-old can form an administration — and one that stays the
course and is effective, unlike his previous two attempts — remains to
be seen.
Bulgaria, where the average monthly salary is just 500
euros (540 dollars) and corruption is rife even after 10 years in the
EU, has now seen three elections in four years.
In the first half
of next year, Bulgaria will hold the rotating presidency of the EU in
the midst of Britain’s negotiations with Brussels on the terms of its
exit from the bloc.
Borisov, once a bodyguard for Bulgaria’s last
communist leader and its ex-king, has long dominated national ,
serving as prime minister from 2009 to 2013 and again from 2014 to 2017.
But
both times Borisov quit early, first in 2013 after mass protests and
then last November after his candidate for the presidency was defeated
by an air force commander backed by the BSP.
And his reform
efforts, in particular in meeting Brussels’ demands to tackle corruption
and organized crime, failed to get off the ground both times.
The
scourge of graft loomed over the poll, with prosecutors launching
multiple electoral fraud probes and television channels alleging sales
of votes for as little as 15 euros.

A man casts his ballot at a polling station during Bulgaria’s parliamentary elections, in Sofia, March 26, 2017. (Photo by AFP)In
the campaign, Borisov ruled out a tie-up with the centrist Movement for
Rights and Freedoms (MDL) Party representing Bulgaria’s Turkish
minority, which came third or fourth with around 9.5 percent of the
vote.
Potential partners include the United Patriots, also on some
9.5 percent, and Veselin Mareshki, a charismatic businessman who likes
being called the Bulgarian Donald Trump.
It was unclear however
whether Mareshki’s party, Volya (“Will”) cleared the four-percent hurdle
needed to gain seats in parliament. Official results were due from
Monday.

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