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In Bulgaria, new legislative elections amid concerns about soaring prices

For the fourth time in a year and a half, the Bulgarians are voting on Sunday, October 2, with a subject in everyone’s mind as winter approaches: soaring prices against a backdrop of war in Ukraine. If endemic corruption occupied the debates of the last legislative elections, economic insecurity this time dominated the campaign while inflation is close to 20% in this Balkan country, the poorest in the European Union.

“It is the prices that concern voters, much more than the geostrategic subjects that agitate the parties”, explains expert Antony Todorov, from the New Bulgarian University. Studies show “a fear of winter”to fall into misery in the face of skyrocketing heating and food prices.

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In this anxiety-provoking climate, ex-Prime Minister Boïko Borissov, 63, is doing well: opinion polls place his conservative party Gerb in first position, with 25% of voting intentions. Drawing on his experience of a decade in power, he promised on Friday, at the last rally of his supporters in Plovdiv, in the country’s surf, to defeat ” chaos “of “to work for the stability of the country”.

Specter of political instability

Despite being nine points behind in the polls, his centrist rival Kiril Petkov wants to believe it and “continue to change”, name of his formation. This 42-year-old former Harvard-educated entrepreneur, who appeared on the Bulgarian political scene in 2021, governed for seven short months before being overthrown by a motion of no confidence.

In an interview with Agence France-Presse, he is pleased to have tackled the “corrupt practices”his battle horse, to redistribute the money to the youngest and the retired, but “there is still a lot of work”. “The challenge is to choose between a European, progressive and transparent Bulgaria, and a return to years of political corruption”, he summarizes, in a final appeal to voters. He firmly rules out an alliance with Mr. Borissov, his sworn enemy, raising the specter of further political instability, unprecedented since the end of communism in 1989.

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The pro-Russian kingmakers?

The Gerb party declares itself on its side ” open to everyone “. “I don’t believe they are returning to power, they are too isolated”comments Mr. Todorov. “The situation is critical, Bulgaria needs a government, but not at any price”he points out.

For the political scientist Gueorgui Kiriakov, Boïko Borissov could however ally himself with the party of the Turkish minority MDL and the formation Vazrajdane (“rebirth”), ultranationalist and close to the Kremlin, whose “behaviour will be decisive”. Credited with 11% to 14% of the vote, this movement has gained momentum since the launch of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, in a country with strong historical, economic and cultural ties with Moscow.

A series of political crises are blocking reforms, slowing growth and accelerating the exodus of young people from this country which has already lost a tenth of its population in a decade.

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The World with AFP

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