Bulgaria’s Impasse: The Election Cycle

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In recent years, Bulgaria has come to the fore with its unstable political structure. Especially the fact that Bulgaria has entered the election cycle for the last two years plays an important role in this. Ultimately, as a result of the general elections held in Bulgaria on October 2, 2022, no party has been able to have a majority to form a government alone. This has brought the option of a coalition to the agenda. Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), We Continue the Change (PP) and the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) failed to form a government, respectively.

In this context, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev announced that the country will hold early elections on January 24, 2023. Therefore, Radev will dissolve the Bulgarian Parliament on February 3, 2023. The Bulgarian elections to be held on April 2, 2023, are noteworthy in that they are the fifth election to be held in the country in the last two years.[1]

This is very important in terms of showing the extent of the political instability in Bulgaria. Therefore, Bulgaria is currently experiencing the worst political crisis in the country since the fall of the communist regime in 1989. So much so that the country is locked in an election cycle for the first time since 1989.

As it will be remembered, in the general elections held in October 2022 in Bulgaria, the lowest turnout of the last 32 years took place. Turnout in the election was limited to only 39%.[2] Therefore, this is important in terms of showing that voters have lost faith in politicians in Bulgaria, which has come to the fore with unstable governments in the last two years. In recent years, the inability of the governments in Bulgaria to serve for a long time and that there is continuous election atmosphere has led to the fact that the Bulgarian people have become tired in a way. In this context, it can be predicted that the turnout may remain low in the elections to be held in April 2023.

In the period from October 2, 2022 to January 24, 2023, it is seen that the political parties in Bulgaria have not been able to show a constructive attitude in terms of forming a coalition. Although GERB and PP, which came in the first two places in the elections held on October 2, 2022, were pro-European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), they could not meet on common ground. In this case, rather than external dynamics, internal dynamics were effective. The leader of GERB, former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, is described by the PP and Democratic Bulgaria (DB) as a controversial politician. The main reason for this is that these parties claimed that Borisov was involved in corruption during his premiership.

Although Borisov called for the formation of a Euro-Atlantic-centric government after the aforementioned elections, the PP stated that they would not take part in the “theft” coalition.[3]  Therefore, it can be argued that the main problem in Bulgaria is not the fight between Russia and the Western camp.  Corruption, etc., leads to clashes between the leading parties of Bulgaria.

On the other hand, GERB has nominated Nikolay Gabrovski to head a technocratic government in the parliamentary vote of December 14, 2022. However, Gabrovski received only 113 votes in the 240-seat parliament, with 125 lawmakers from four political parties voting against it.[4] When the GERB failed to form a government, Radev gave the authority to the PP. However, the PP also failed to form a government on January 6, 2023. The PP presented a declaration with key reforms and priorities to form a government, but only received the support of 63 deputies in parliament. While the DB supported the PP, GERB and the pro-Russian far-right Revival (Vazrazhdane) opposed the formation of a government under the leadership of this party.[5]

Ultimately, Radev gave the BSP the authority to form a government on January 16, 2022, but this party was also unsuccessful. The fact that the BSP is a pro-Russian party has prevented it from receiving support from parties such as GERB and PP in parliament. This paved the way for early elections in Bulgaria.

On the other hand, the internal turmoil experienced by Bulgaria has put serious challenges in front of the country in terms of foreign policy. This has made it difficult for Bulgaria to act in harmony, especially with the EU. In December 2022, Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area, which allows free movement between EU member states, was vetoed. Undoubtedly, the political instability experienced by the country in recent years has played a decisive role in this. Moreover, Sofia wants to join the eurozone by 2024. However, the lack of a stable government in Bulgaria may render Sofia’s initiative fruitless.

Furthermore, another problem that Bulgaria may face concerns EU funds. The Sofia administration received the first payment of 1.3 billion euros from the EU recovery fund in December 2022. However, Bulgaria needs to make 22 amendments to the law in order to receive other parts of the fund.[6] Given that there will be no functioning parliament in Bulgaria between February and April 2023, it can be foreseen that Sofia will have trouble receiving the other part of the funds.

On the other hand, another consequence of the political instability in Bulgaria is that Radev has increased his power in the country. Radev, a former soldier, is considered a pro-Russian person. Therefore, it can be argued that Radev will come to the fore in Bulgaria and Russian influence will increase in the future.

Consequently, Bulgaria is locked in an election cycle. It can be foreseen that this situation will continue. It can be said that the elections to be held on April 2, 2023, will reveal a fragmented parliamentary structure like the previous elections and that the political parties in the country will again have problems in forming a coalition. In this context, it can be stated that it is extremely difficult to ensure political stability in Bulgaria.

[1] “Bulgaria Gears for Its Fifth Election in Two Years on April 2”, Reuters,, (Date of Accession: 25.01.2023).

[2] “Elections in Bulgaria: Can a Government be Formed? Lowest Voter Activity in 32 Years”, Novinite,, (Date of Accession: 25.01.2023).

[3] “Bulgaria: “We Continue the Change” Did Not Accept GERB’s Offer- They Remain Opposition”, Novinite,, (Erişim Tarihi: 25.01.2023).

[4] “Bulgaria’s GERB Fails to Install Technocrat Government to Fill Political Void”, Euractiv,, (Date of Accession: 25.01.2023).

[5] “Latest Attempt to form Government Fails in Bulgaria”, Bne IntelliNews,, (Date of Accession: 25.01.2023).

[6] “Fitch Warns Bulgaria’s Political Turmoil Putting EU Funds, Eurozone Accession at Risk”, Bne Intelli News,, (Date of Accession: 25.01.2023).

Cemal Ege ÖZKAN
Cemal Ege Özkan, 2019 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih-Coğrafya Fakültesi Tarih Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2022 senesinde aynı üniversitenin Türk İnkılap Tarihi Enstitüsü Atatürk İlkeleri ve İnkılap Tarihi Anabilim Dalı’nda hazırladığı “Türk Siyasi Hayatında Selim Rauf Sarper ve Faaliyetleri” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Hâlihazırda aynı enstitüde doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. 2020-2021 yılları arasında Türk Tarih Kurumu Yüksek Lisans Bursiyeri olan Özkan, iyi derecede İngilizce bilmektedir.