SOFIA -- Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's center-right party is set to come in first in the country’s April 4 parliamentary elections, but it could struggle to form a ruling coalition after parties behind large-scale, anti-government protests last summer won a large share of the vote.
With nearly all of the ballots counted, the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party was ahead with 26 percent of the vote, the Central Election Commission (CEC) said, putting it on track for its worst performance since Borisov formed it about 15 years ago.
There Is Such A People, a new, anti-establishment party formed by popular Bulgarian talk-show host Stanislav Trifonov, was running second with 17.9 percent, followed by the Socialist Party, the successor to the Communist Party, with 15 percent, the CEC said.
The mostly ethnic Turkish-backed Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) and the liberal, Western-leaning grouping Democratic Bulgaria were next with 9.9 percent and 9.7 percent of the vote, respectively.
Get Up! Get Out!, a new, center-left alliance launched by former Ombudsman Maya Manolov, received 4.8 percent of the vote.
No other party received more than the 4 percent minimum required to enter parliament.
The results were a clear blow for the GERB party and the Socialist Party, which posted its worst parliamentary election performance since the collapse of communism in 1989.
The GERB party is expected to get about 70 seats in the 240-seat legislature, but it will need at least 121 seats to form a new, stable government. That will not be easy, analysts said.
Nationalist parties, the GERB party’s main coalition partners over the past four years, did not receive enough votes to enter parliament. Several of the parties that did make it into parliament have vowed not to work with the GERB party.
As the outcome of the election became clear, Borisov, 61, called on his opponents to join forces to form a government.
“I offer you peace. I offer that we put together experts and people who will undertake the [government] responsibilities,” Borisov said in a video on Facebook.
In a clear knock at his novice opponents like Trifonov, Borisov claimed he was better positioned to lead the Bulgaria, especially in a time of crisis.
“You have no expertise. You have no people. You don't understand things. You need to learn, while our potential is huge,” Borisov told his opponents.
Borisov has served as prime minister for nearly the entire period since 2009 with a brief stint out of office in 2013-14.
Emilia Zankina, a Bulgaria expert and dean of Temple University’s Rome campus, told RFE/RL prior to the election that it would be “almost impossible” for the GERB party and Borisov to form a ruling coalition because the parties expected to make it into parliament were so “ideologically incongruent.”
"I don’t see this government [under the GERB party] lasting too long," she said.
Parvan Simeonov, a Sofia-based political analyst for Gallup International, told RFE/RL on April 5 that the weak performance by the GERB party and the Socialists Party -- the nation’s two dominant parties since the late 2000s -- indicates a strong preference in Bulgarian society for change.
The analyst said the three parties behind the anti-corruption protests in the summer -- There Is Such A People, Democratic Bulgaria, and Get Up!, Get Out! -- could potentially form a ruling coalition government with the tacit support of the Socialist Party.
“There still could be some behind-the-scenes arrangement [to keep Borisov in power], but I think Bulgarian society would not let him form another government,” said Simeonov, adding there could be more protests if the prime minister seeks to hang on.
If the six parties are unable to form a coalition government, the constitution requires the president to appoint an interim government to prepare for new parliamentary elections later in the year.