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Anti-elite party earns tight win in Bulgarian elections

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Arben Llapashtica

Former deputy prime minister Tomislav Donchev, center, and GERB political party officials attend a news conference in capital Sofia, Bulgaria on Sunday, July 11, 2021. Voter apathy dominated Bulgaria's early election on Sunday, raising the prospect of yet another fractured parliament that will struggle to form a viable governing coalition. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

SOFIA – An anti-elite party appeared to be the winner of Bulgaria's parliamentary election, the country's central electoral commission said on Monday, with nearly 99 % of the ballots counted.

Results showed the There is Such a People party of popular TV entertainer Slavi Trifonov earning 23.9% of the vote, edging out the center-right GERB party of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov by a mere 0.2%.

Four other parties have made it into the 240-seat chamber including the Socialist Party with 13.5 %, the liberal anti-corruption group Democratic Bulgaria with 12.6 %, the ethnic Turkish MRF party with 10.7 % and the center-left alliance Stand Up! Mafia Out! with 5 %.

With official results still pending, Trifonov said that his party wouldn't seek to form a coalition but would “take political responsibility” and propose to Parliament a minority government of his own.

International observers said on Monday that fundamental freedoms were generally respected in the poll.

“These elections have taken place amid persistent public mistrust in the political establishment, mostly stemming from widespread allegations of corruption and an unsuccessful attempt to form a government following the elections in April,” Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe official Artur Gerasymov said.

The snap elections were held just three months after an inconclusive vote and again produced a fragmented parliament that will struggle to form a viable governing coalition. They also marked a further drop in support for Borissov’s GERB party, after the current caretaker government made public allegations of widespread corruption during his rule.

NATO and EU member Bulgaria has been repeatedly criticized for not tackling corruption and for deficiencies in the rule of law and media freedom.

The anti-corruption campaign of Borissov’s opponents was additionally boosted by the sanctions the U.S. Treasury imposed last month against several Bulgarian public officials and business leaders for corruption.

The new parliament is expected to convene for its first session next week.