Boiko Borisov, the comeback specialist of Bulgarian politics, looked to have done it again as exit polls from a snap election put his pro-EU centre-right party in first place. Borisov’s European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party won about 32%, the exit polls on Sunday showed, ahead of the Socialist party (BSP) on about 28%. Observers had suggested victory for the BSP might see Bulgaria, a Nato member, tilt more towards Russia. Moscow, which has long had close cultural and economic ties with Bulgaria, has been accused of seeking to expand its influence in other Balkan countries in recent months. Borisov said after the exit poll that he was “obliged” by the vote to form a government but whether the burly former firefighter and mayor of Sofia, 57, can form a stable coalition remains to be seen.
The European Union’s poorest country, where the average monthly salary is just €500 (£430) and corruption is rife, has been unstable for years. The election was the third in four years.
Borisov, once a bodyguard for Bulgaria’s last Communist leader, has long dominated national politics, serving as prime minister from 2009 to 2013 and again from 2014 to 2017.
In between, the BSP was in power for barely a year. Both times Borisov quit early, first in 2013 after mass protests and then last November after his candidate for the presidency was beaten by a former air force chief backed by the BSP.