The newly formed anti-corruption party wins Bulgarian legislative election

by Cristian Florescu

A new anti-corruption movement, launched by two US-schooled businessmen, got an unexpectedly good result in this legislative election (14 November) in Bulgaria, writes

The anti-graft We Continue The Change party (PP), launched only two months ago by two Harvard-educated entrepreneurs won 25.5% of the vote, surpassing the GERB party of long-serving premier Boyko Borissov. Borissov’s party came in second with 22.2% of the vote. His decade-long rule ended with the April election amid public anger over his failure to crackdown on corruption.

The “We Continue The Change party” was founded by Kiril Petkov and Asen Vasiliev. They went full throttle into politics only in September, with only a few months’ worths of experience as ministers in the technocratic interim government.

Sunday’s election was marked by strong absenteeism, as Bulgarians were called to the polls for the third time in a year to elect their MPs. At 16:00 local time, four hours before the polls closed, the turnout was only 26 per cent, according to the Electoral Commission, the weakest of all the polls held this year.

Bulgaria has already voted twice this year, in April and then in July, ending a decade in which Boiko Borisov was in power, weakened by last year’s mass demonstrations. However, the various parties that call themselves “anti-system” have so far failed to unite to gain power and form a ruling coalition.

Why did Bulgarians go to the polls so many times this year?

Following the past two elections, in April and then in July 2021, elected parties failed to agree on forming a ruling coalition. The Bulgarian electorate seems to have lost hope in a better future, especially since these new elections are taking place in the middle of -the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit Bulgaria hard and choked up the medical system.

The next government already has its work cut out. Solving the health crisis is the real emergency, given that the interim government has seemed powerless in the face of a deteriorating pandemic situation. Hospitals in Bulgaria are overwhelmed by the growing number of infections, and the number of COVID-19-related deaths is over 200 every day in a country where less than a quarter of the 6.9 million people are fully vaccinated. . The mortality rate is one of the highest in the world, and the health system is outdated. Three patients died these days in a fire that broke out in a hospital.

Bulgarians also had to elect their president on Sunday

Together with the legislative election, Bulgarians had to choose the country’s president on Sunday, the favourite in this election being the incumbent president, Rumen Radev, whose main opponent was the rector of the University of Sofia, Anastas Gerdjikov, supported by GERB.

Rumen Radev came in first after the first round with 49% of the vote, while the main opponent, Anastas Gerdjikov, got only 25 per cent.

The current head of state, who became popular by supporting anti-corruption protests in the summer of 2020, is the clear favourite for the second round of voting on November 21. Rumen Radev is a former commander of the Bulgarian Air Force, and in the 2016 elections, he ran as an independent but was supported by the Socialists.

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