Bulgaria’s pro-European parties have won the country’s local elections, with the intrigue in the second round between the two leading parliamentary forces – the coalition of We Continue the Change and Democratic Bulgaria (CC-DB) and GERB, the strongest party in local government.
GERB maintains its leading position in most major cities, except for Sofia, where, according to Gallup International Balkan, PZ-DB candidate Vassil Terziev, one of Bulgaria’s most prominent IT entrepreneurs, is leading convincingly (38.8%). In the second round, he will face Vanya Grigorova (19%), nominated by the pro-Russian left.
The GERB party has governed the capital, Sofia, for 17 years. However, TV journalist Anton Hekimyan (17%) could have been a much more successful candidate for mayor from the party of long-time GERB Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. However, the final results may shift the emphasis in the ratings, as the difference between Vanya Grigorova and Anton Hekimyan, according to exit polls, is about 2%.
The local elections in Bulgaria were overshadowed by a massive scandal caused by the State National Security Agency, which led to the cancellation of machine voting.
Four years ago, the local elections sparked severe allegations of fraud, with almost 20% of ballots being declared invalid. Machine voting was then introduced, which eliminated this problem. However, this type of voting was cancelled after a highly questionable intervention by the security services, which filmed the deputy minister checking one of the voting machines.
The SANS report raised suspicions that the vote might have been fraudulent, and the machines were seized, although most fraud occurs with paper ballots.
Despite high expectations, the radical anti-European and pro-Russian Revival party did weaker than expected in the local elections, meaning it will not have a mayor in any major cities. The decline of pro-Russian forces in the EU states is a trend in the context of the Russian war in Ukraine.