Exit polls point to first place for Bulgarian leader’s party

SOFIA, BUGARIA (AP) — The centre-right GERB party led by Bulgaria’s longtime prime minister appeared the likely winner of Sunday’s parliamentary elections, with several exit polls pointing to it finishing first in a fractured political landscape.

The election was widely seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Boyko Borissov after months of anti-government protests and amid a surge in coronavirus infections. Late Sunday, Borissov called on his opponents to form a broad-based governing coalition.

Four exit polls had the GERB party finishing on top, with around 25 per cent of the vote. The polls placed the opposition Socialist Party second with some 17 per cent, slightly ahead of the new “There is such a nation” party led by prominent TV entertainer Slavi Trifonov.

The Central Election Commission said voter turnout on Sunday was nearly 40 per cent by 5pm, a smaller showing than in previous elections. Some 6.7 million people had been eligible to cast ballots for 240 lawmakers. In a statement on Facebook, Borissov called on his opponents to join forces in a demonstration of political stability in Bulgaria, hinting at the idea of forming a government of experts supported by a broad Parliamentary majority.

“I offer you peace, let us appoint the experts and until December we can overcome the pandemic and move forward. That is my offer to all of you. Let us choose the best people to do the job. United we are strong,” he said.

Borissov, 61, who has led the populist GERB party since its founding in 2006, has governed Bulgaria with an iron grip for most of the last 11 years.

“I have always taken into account what the people decide… Let the elections be honest,” Borissov was quoted as saying after he cast his ballot without reporters present due to pandemic restrictions.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov casts his ballot during parliamentary elections in the town of Bankya. PHOTO: AP