Rightist GERB leads in Bulgarian election

GERB, whose government resigned after violent demonstrations against poverty and corruption in February, was set to win 31 percent of the votes

Rightist GERB leads in Bulgarian election

World Bulletin/News Desk

Bulgaria's centre-right GERB party was scrambling to form a government on Monday, determined to cobble together an alliance that could ease concerns over the future of the EU's poorest country.

Boiko Borisov's GERB, which won 31.4 percent of the vote in Sunday's election, according to partial results, will have first chance to form a government but will struggle to find partners, with its image tarnished by nationwide protests and allegations of illegal activity.

Six years after joining the European Union, many of Bulgaria's 7.3 million people are angry about low living standards and graft, and it shows the risk of trouble in fringe states as the euro zone focuses on its own woes.

Borisov made no remarks after the vote but former Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, ranked second in the party, said: "GERB will be responsible to the nation. (Borisov) is capable of proposing and forming a government - it could be a minority one."

Borisov resigned from office in February during protests against low living standards and corruption, when seven people set themselves on fire, and the unclear election result raises questions over Bulgaria's economic policy and may require another poll, possibly in September.

The Socialists were in second place, with 27.4 percent of the vote, with 69 percent of ballots counted. Ethnic Turkish party MRF had 9.2 percent and nationalist Attack 7.6 percent.

Socialist leader Sergei Stanishev, certain that GERB would not be able to form a government, said the party was ready to hold talks with MRF, Attack and citizens organisations to form a programme cabinet to avoid fresh protests.

"The first task is to get GERB out of power," Stanishev said. "We will start talks with the first two parties that will enter the parliament."

"We will take the responsibility to form a government. We will also talk with different citizens' organisation and help citizens controls over institutions. I will make sure that talks with other parties and citizens organisations (are) held transparently."

But after a campaign that consisted more of mud-slinging than presenting clear policies, and marred by a scandals over wiretapping and illegal ballots that hurt GERB's support, parties in parliament may find it difficult to work together.

 PARALLEL COUNT

GERB's campaign has been marred by allegations of illegal wiretapping and the seizure of illegal ballot papers at a printing shop owned by one of its local councillors, which have increased fears of rigging in the Balkan country, notorious for graft and organised crime.

Socialist leader Sergei Stanishev called the discovery an "unprecedented conspiracy against democracy" but President Rosen Plevneliev, an independent who has GERB's backing, told reporters that nobody would be able to get away with cheating.

A survey before the election found that 12 percent of Bulgarians were willing to sell their votes. Because of worries over the process, five parties - not including GERB - have hired an Austrian company to carry out a parallel vote count.

GERB leader Boiko Borisov pledges to keep debt down and maintain economic stability, winning favour from investors, and supporters praise it for building schools and motorways. The Socialists say they will spend more, creating jobs and lifting growth above the 1 percent expected this year.

On Sunday, there was little sign of tension or renewed protests, despite activists' threats of rallies to coincide with the end of polling.

However, deep problems remain in society.

Under GERB, Bulgaria has kept one of the lowest debt levels in the EU to maintain a currency peg to the euro, but its opponents say that has constrained growth in the country where the average monthly wage is 400 euros ($520).

About 2 million Bulgarians have left since the 1989 fall of communism and the country still struggles to supply running water and reliable electricity to some of its people.

Borisov, a heavily built former bodyguard who shot to prominence as mayor of Sofia before securing a sweeping election win in 2009 on an anti-corruption ticket, was cheered by supporters chanting "Victory" as he voted in the capital.

"GERB created so much trouble for three and a half years as did all the other governments in the past 20 years. People are poor, people are discouraged," said Rumen Blagoev, 62, a retired policeman in Sofia. He planned to vote Socialist.

Last Mod: 13 Mayıs 2013, 09:36
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