SOFIA: Bulgarians began voting on Sunday in a tight and tense snap general election marred by accusations of fraud and expected to result in political stalemate and fresh protests in the European Union’s poorest member.

Former bodyguard and former-premier Boyko Borisov’s conservative GERB party is expected to win the most votes, even though the biggest demonstrations in 16 years forced his government to resign only three months ago.

But pre-vote opinion polls give GERB just 29 percent to 35 percent of the vote, well short of a majority and nowhere near enough for a repeat of Borisov’s previous minority government when his party was just four seats short of a being able to govern alone.

The last-minute opinion polls showed that the socialist BSP (Bulgarian Socialist Party) party snapping at GERB’s heels on 25-32 percent, with some surveys putting them neck-and-neck and even suggesting the BSP might pull off a surprise, if slim, victory.

Either way, this will leave either party the tough task of fishing for coalition partners in a severely fragmented parliament that might include up to five other parties.

“At least a three-party coalition will be needed to form a government,” analyst Yuliy Pavlov from the Center for Analysis and Marketing said.

The ultra-nationalist Ataka, which voted with Borisov’s minority government but which has now turned against him, seems set to enter parliament again, with polls giving it between 6 percent and 9 percent.

The only other party certain to clear the 4-percent threshold to enter parliament is the Socialists’ former coalition partner, the liberal Turkish minority MRF party, credited with between 8 percent and 15 percent of the popular vote.

A potential kingmaker could be the new centrist formation DBG of ex-European commissioner Meglena Kuneva, polling at 3.0 percent to 6.5 percent, although it is unclear whom—if anyone—Kuneva might support.



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