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Borisov to bounce back in Bulgaria election

05 october 2014, 15:18

 Bulgarian strongman Boyko Borisov was set for a possible return to power in elections Sunday, just 20 months after resigning during mass nationwide protests in the EU's poorest member, AFP reports.

It is unclear however whether the right-wing former bodyguard can put an end to years of political instability and restore voters' badly shaken trust in politicians 25 years after communism.

"Who is there to vote for, it's just the same faces again," said hairdresser and mother-of-two Iva Kutchukova, 35, echoing the views of many.

"I am going to vote for Borisov. At least he gives the impression that someone is flying the plane."

The average monthly salary in the south-eastern European country of 7.4 million people is a meagre 400 euros ($504), and seven years after joining the European Union every fifth household lives below the poverty line.

Economic growth is sluggish and there are major worries about Bulgaria's financial system, with tens of thousands of customers at the fourth-largest bank prevented from getting money out since June.

The Ukraine crisis has also put Bulgaria in a difficult situation, threatening Russian gas supplies this winter and making it hard for Sofia to retain traditionally strong ties to Moscow, while staying close to Brussels, which has frozen hundreds of millions of euros (dollars) in aid.

Undermining people's faith in democracy meanwhile is the perception that amid all the misery, a well-connected clique -- Porsche SUVs are not uncommon in downtown Sofia -- are still lining their pockets.

Such sentiments were stoked last week when a munitions plant with a poor safety record was flattened in a huge explosion, killing all 15 people inside.

Floods this summer, which environmentalists say were exacerbated by illegal logging and construction, left some 30 people dead.

"We took to the streets (in early 2013) against Borisov's government. What did we gain from his resignation?" wondered Ilian Stanev, a 47-year-old teacher.

"It is the same oligarchs who are still pulling the strings of government."




It was anger at this poverty and corruption that erupted in the protests that ended Borisov's first term two winters ago. Several people even set themselves on fire.

The subsequent technocrat government then installed by the Socialists fared little better, and after 14 months of almost constant demonstrations it too threw in the towel this July, necessitating this latest election.

Opinion polls put support for Borisov's GERB party at 31-37 percent, ahead of the Socialists on 19-21 percent and the Turkish minority MRF party on 13-16 percent.

This could mean that 55-year-old Borisov, who is also a former firefighter, will have to form a coalition, or at least a minority government -- as he did during his first term -- relying on the support of other parties.

The key will be the performance of smaller parties including the far-right Ataka, polling at around four percent, the threshold for entering the 240-seat parliament.

Since this is the second election in 17 months, turnout is expected to be low -- around 45 percent -- and a recent study estimated that some 1.25 million people will sell their votes or be intimidated into voting a particular way.

In any case, even if Borisov manages to form a government it will likely be short-lived, analysts predict.

"This government won't last longer than the next presidential election in October 2016," said Parvan Simeonov from the Gallup polling institute.

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