Mass protests in Bulgaria against austerity measures and energy costs forced out the government in February. Elections set for Sunday could lead to more political turmoil. Recent public-opinion surveys indicate that the conservative party that led the previous administration and its main, left-leaning challenger are running neck-and-neck, complicating prospects for the formation of a governing coalition. Unhappiness with low living standards and perceived corruption in the European Union’s poorest member state boiled over this past winter, leading to nationwide demonstrations, initially over rising electricity prices.
In a sign of the desperate public mood, at least seven people have set themselves on fire—some explicitly saying they were acting to protest government policies and corruption. Six have died.
“The coming elections are like a joke to me, as is any hope that things will get better,” said Yoana Georgieva, a woman in her early 20s living in Sofia. “I feel as if all of the parties and their leaders are irrelevant to me and the life I live.”
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A worker hangs campaign posters for the Socialist party in Sofia on Thursday. Pollsters are forecasting political deadlock after the general election on Sunday.
The former conservative prime minister, Boyko Borisov, submitted his resignation Feb. 20 after marchers in Sofia clashed with riot police, saying he wanted to prevent violence from worsening.
Reacting to the outcry over power prices, Bulgaria’s energy regulator cut them six weeks ago and the caretaker government has said they would remain capped for a year.
Mr. Borisov, a former bodyguard to Soviet-era dictator Todor Zhivkov, kept a tight rein on spending and navigated the global financial crisis without needing an international bailout.
Full Article: Bulgarians Disillusioned Ahead of Vote – WSJ.com.