Bulgaria vote heads for tight finish
Monday, 13 May 2013 09:56
Bulgaria vote heads for tight finishProtesters took to the streets to oppose any Gerb-led government

Partial results from Bulgaria's parliamentary election show a narrow lead for the centre-right Gerb party over its socialist rivals.

With nearly 70% of the ballots counted, Gerb has 31.4% of the vote, followed by the BSP with 27.4%.

But ex-PM Boiko Borisov has failed to win the election outright and must now try to form a coalition government. That is expected to be very difficult.

Gerb resigned in February amid protests over living standards and corruption.

Voter turnout was barely 50% and the run-up to the election was marked by voter apathy and claims of fraud.

The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Sofia says more political uncertainty in the EU's poorest country looks likely as the main parties struggle to re-establish their claim to power.

Bulgaria faces a major economic and social crisis, our correspondent says, with unemployment officially close to 12% but - unofficially - over 18%.

'Mafia' chants

International observers are expected to give their verdict shortly on whether the election was conducted fairly. More than 250 of them monitored Sunday's election.

Gerb has pledged to keep debts under control, while the socialists say they will spend more and create jobs.

As polls closed, crowds gathered outside the election centre at the Palace of Culture in Sofia to protest against any new attempt by Gerb to form a new government.

Bulgaria vote heads for tight finishBSP leader Sergei Stanishev, left, and former PM Boiko Borisov have fought for every vote

Protesters chanting "Mafia" were involved in brief scuffles with police, Bulgarian news agencies said.

The results so far suggest Gerb will fall well short of a majority in the 240-seat parliament.

In order to form a new government, it will need the support of parties that have already declared their opposition to another Borisov-led administration.

Other parties expected to pass the 4% threshold needed to enter parliament are the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) - which represents Bulgaria's ethnic Turkish minority - and the ultra-nationalist Ataka.

The centrist Bulgaria of the Citizens, led by former European Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, was thought to be close to the necessary threshold.

Ballot paper 'scandal'

President Rosen Plevneliev had earlier appealed to Bulgaria's 6.9 million voters to cast their votes to ensure a fair result.

"Whatever scenarios exist, they don't stand a chance against millions of Bulgarians who can come out to vote," he said.

A caretaker government has led Bulgaria since mass protests prompted Mr Borisov's resignation in February.

Bulgaria vote heads for tight finishPolice sealed off the printing shop at Kostinbrod near Sofia following the overnight raid

Before Sunday's vote, the centre-right leader had said he would be happy to go into opposition, and BSP leader Sergei Stanishev said if his party won, he would not be prime minister.

Gerb has pledged to keep debts under control, while the socialists say they will spend more and create jobs.

The election campaign had already been marred by revelations of illegal wiretapping of politicians, with prosecutors pointing the finger at former Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov.

Then, on Saturday, prosecutors said a printing house near the capital Sofia had been raided with the seizure of 350,000 ballot papers that were printed over the legally fixed number.

Mr Stanishev described the discovery as a "scandal".

He said it showed there had been "preparation for total falsification of the elections".

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source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22498433#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa


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