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Exit polls and early results in Bulgaria suggest that the centre-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party of longtime leader Boyko Borisov has won the snap general election, the fourth ballot in this guy in 18 months.

A poll by pollster Gallup International showed GERB won 24.6%, apparently ahead of former Prime Minister Kiril Petkov’s reformist We Continue Change (PP) party, which is expected to score 18.9. %.

Alpha Research poll data had GERB with 25.5%, followed by PP with 19.9%.

Early preliminary results largely mirrored exit poll data with the GERB with over 25% of the vote, followed by the PP at 22% with 12% of the ballots counted.

Voter turnout on October 2 was estimated at around 30%.

Petkov and former finance minister Assen Vassilev, co-chairmen of the PP party, later conceded and said they would not participate in a coalition with GERB.

“It is the responsibility of GERB to form a government. We promised that we would never enter into a coalition with GERB and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and we will keep our promise,” Petkov said, referring to a party supported by the Turkish strain, the DSP.

Vassilev added that both the GERB and the DPS were a “symbol of corruption” in Bulgarian politics.

The southeastern European country of nearly 7 million people has been in the throes of a political stalemate since 2020, when it was rocked by nationwide protests amid public anger after years of corruption overflowed.

Much of the anger was directed at longtime leader Borisov and GERB.

The last government, led by Petkov, collapsed in June after just six months when one of its coalition partners resigned. Petkov struggled to keep his promise to root out corruption.

He has also supported Ukraine in its fight against Russia in a country traditionally friendly to Moscow and accuses the Kremlin of helping to orchestrate the collapse of his government, which refused to pay gas in rubles as demanded. Russia.

After voting, Borisov told reporters that Bulgaria needed to take a clear stance on Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

“With that, aggression, with this war with a clear aggressor facing [Russian President Vladimir] Cheese fries — [I have] nothing against the Russian people – with this farce with the referendums, Bulgaria must be very clear, categorical and precise about its place in the European Union and NATO,” he said, adding that the entry of Bulgaria in the euro zone should be the first and most important task.

Petkov dismissed recent polls as questionable and expressed confidence that the vote will yield positive results for his party.

“After this election, we will form a coalition with the Bulgarian people,” Petkov told reporters after casting his vote.

“Today’s election is very important. The choice is between going back to the transition years or breaking with this period once and for all and moving towards a new prosperous and reformed Bulgaria. I believe that all Bulgarians in today will make the choice for Bulgaria to move forward,” said Petkov.

As many as eight parties could cross the 4% threshold needed to enter parliament and take seats in the 240-member legislature.

One of them, the far-right Revival party, which garners about 11% to 13%, has benefited from a wave of populism that has swept across Europe – as evidenced by recent gains by far-right parties right in Italy and Sweden – spurred by economic fears and uncertainty fueled first by the COVID-19 pandemic and now by Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

The Revival party has vowed to pull Bulgaria out of the EU and NATO and push forward pro-Kremlin policies.

While many pundits dismiss the Revival party’s anti-Western rhetoric as nothing more than campaign bluster, they warn that the party is doing the Kremlin’s bidding.

Alpha Research polls showed Revival got 10% of the vote.

Early results gave Revival over 11% of ballots counted. The DPS had 9%, as did the Bulgarian Socialist Party.

With report by AP