Bulgarian Elections: What Kind of Future?

Similar Posts

This post is also available in: Türkçe Русский

Bulgaria, due to the ongoing political instability and economic problems in the country, being the poorest country in the European Union (EU), and as a result of concerns such as the war in Ukraine, which is only 200 km from the border, On April 2, 2023, it held the fifth parliamentary election in less than two years. The reason for the “Election Feasts” in question, it is stated that the high level of political polarization in the country prevents the parties from forming a stable coalition and thus the election of a prime minister to lead the country.

Bulgaria has been struggling with a deep division and political polarization between ideological groups in the country since its democratization in the post-Cold War period.[1] Although Bulgaria seemed to have left its political divisions behind in the early 2000s, this situation has been changing in recent years. Political tensions increased and public confidence in the government came to a breaking point, especially due to corruption scandals involving the former prime minister and the leader of the conservative Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party, Boyko Borisov. As a result of the polarization created by these scandals, permanent coalitions and even the formation of a government in Bulgaria became difficult. Most parties refuse to cooperate with GERB and Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (DSB), which are involved in corruption allegations. In addition, Revival, which refuses to cooperate with any other political formation and has pro-Russian new radical right thoughts, has been gaining strength in recent years.[2]

Using the political vacuum in Bulgaria to his advantage, President Rumen Radev has turned the political crisis in Bulgaria in his favor in order to gain power over foreign policy, which is traditionally one of the areas beyond his constitutional privileges. Unlike many of Bulgaria’s largest political parties, which support Ukraine in its war against Russia, Radev has used his own platform for pro-Russian purposes. It is foreseen that the elections will not change Radev’s pro-Russian foreign policy. However, Bulgaria will continue to thwart Radev’s parliamentary will and divert his country’s foreign policy away from the European consensus on war until the adopted foreign policy finds a solution.

One of the names who carefully followed the elections in the country is Russian President Vladimir Putin. Since the invasion of Ukraine, Bulgaria’s major political parties have taken an anti-Russian stance and supported sending military aid to Ukraine alongside NATO allies. President Radev, on the other hand, opposed these efforts and clearly adopted a pro-Russian stance. Radev’s admiration for Russia, when he entered the political scene in the 2016 presidential elections, his words about a Russian flag flying over Crimea have been remembered.[3]

Bulgaria has been among the largest ammunition manufacturers in Europe for a long time and is closely followed by Putin because of this feature. It will be very critical for Putin that the possible change in the support given to Russia with Radev before the election in favor of Ukraine will emerge with the election. Radev, who accuses the pro-Ukrainian lawmakers in Bulgaria of being “warmongers”, recently announced that Bulgaria will not support a European indent for the supply of bullets to Ukraine.

Pollsters believe that voter fatigue and politicians’ distrust of the will to fight corruption will result in low turnout and a fragmented parliament, which will once again face an uphill battle to form a stable government.[4] It is also thought that the war, inflation and the widening gap between Russia and the pro-European camps may lead more Bulgarians to vote for nationalist and pro-Moscow parties on election day.

As a result, it seems likely that the political crisis in Bulgaria will continue after the elections on April 2, 2023. This situation will significantly affect the political and socio-economic policies of the country, as economic issues become a secondary problem due to prominent political polarizations. With these elections, which do not promise any hope for overcoming the political stalemate or for stability, the debate will continue in the country’s foreign policy until a government is established in Bulgaria. On the other hand, the outcome of the elections, which is important for Putin, will result in favor of Russia as long as Radev remains in his presidency and will prevent possible Ukrainian support. In this context, it is seen that the confusion and disagreements between the parties strengthen the pro-Russian foreign policy.

[1] “Bulgaria Is Stuck in an Electoral Doom Loop”, Foreign Policy (FP),, (Date of Accession: 01.04.2023).

[2] “Bulgaria Is Stuck in an Electoral…”, op.cit.

[3] “Bulgaria’s Outgoing Foreign Minister Criticises President-elect Over Statements on Crimea”, The Sofia Globe,, (Date of Accession: 01.04.2023).

[4] “Bulgaria Heads to 5th Election in 2 Years, But 6th May Loom’, ABCNEWS,, (Date of Accession:01.04.2023).