Polling stations open in Bulgaria for general elections

Sofia, Apr 4 (efe-epa).- Almost 12,000 polling stations in Bulgaria opened their doors Sunday at 7:00 am (4:00 GMT) for legislative elections to which 6.6 million citizens are summoned and will likely see a record abstention rate due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Until polls close at 8:00 pm (5:00 p.m. GMT), voters will be able to choose between some 30 parties and alliances to form the new 240-seat parliament.

Polls predict that only seven formations will exceed the 4 percent threshold necessary to enter parliament, while none are expected to reach the majority necessary to govern alone.

Populist Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, who has ruled Bulgaria for a decade, is the favorite to extend his term.

Borisov’s conservative formation, Citizens for European Development in Bulgaria (GERB), is first in the polls with a 28-percent margin, followed by the opposition Socialist Party (BSP), with 20 percent.

Third in the polls is a newly created formation, There Are Such People (ITN), led by television personality Slavi Trifonov, who, with a populist message against corruption and the elites, could obtain almost 13 percent of votes.

The Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the party that brings together the vote of the Turkish minority, would be in fourth place with about 12.5 percent, according to polls.

Two other new reformist formations nourished by discontent against the government and, possibly, an ultra-nationalist party that has been a coalition ally with Borisov would also enter parliament.

Although the current prime minister’s victory seems clear, he will need at least two other partners to achieve a parliamentary majority.

However, all new formations have said they will not ally with Borisov, and the Socialists have already ruled out a possible grand coalition.

The opposition is also divided, as many of the new parties, such as Trifonov’s ITN, refuse to collaborate with the Socialists, whom it considers to be part of the oligarchic caste.

Bulgaria has the fourth highest death rate from Covid-19 in Europe and more than 10,000 patients are currently hospitalized, the highest number since the pandemic began.

This situation will lead many voters to stay at home for fear of contagion, a situation that especially punishes the Socialists, whose electoral base is of an aging population. Masks will be obligatory at polling stations, where there will be disinfectant gel and limited capacity.

Surveys foresee a participation of less than 50 percent, and some analyses lower it to about 40 percent.

Teams with mobile ballot boxes have been prepared for the close to 60,000 people who are in quarantine or in isolation, although there are doubts about the ability to carry them to all those who have requested to vote.

Some media estimate that only 5 percent of people in quarantine will be able to vote, either because they did not register on time or because they could not exercise the right to vote because the electoral teams did not arrive at their homes. EFE-EPA


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