Bulgaria’s GERB with strong lead for Nov. 14 election, opinion poll shows

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SOFIA, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s centre-right GERB party kept a substantial lead over its rivals before Sunday’s parliamentary election that will be the country’s third this year, an opinion poll showed on Thursday.

Neither of the six parties projected to win seats in parliament is expected to garner an outright majority, raising the prospect of tough talks on forming a government in the poorest European Union member state.

Former prime minister Boyko Borissov’s GERB polled at 24.1%, up from 23.5% it obtained in the last election in July when it came second, but still below the 26.1% it won in April, the opinion poll by independent Alpha Research pollsters showed.

Anger against high-level graft ended GERB’s decade-long rule after the April vote, but its political opponents could not agree on a government after the last two ballots.

The prolonged political crisis, concerns about rising coronavirus infections and deaths in the EU’s least vaccinated state, and high energy costs have helped GERB mobilise its regional structures and largely maintain its support.

A new centrist anti-graft party, We Continue the Change, set up by two Harvard-educated former interim ministers runs neck-and-neck with the leftist Socialists, polling at 16.5% and 16%, respectively, showed the survey conducted on Nov. 7-9 among 1,017 people.

The anti-establishment ITN party, which won the July election with 24%, saw its backing plummet to 9.9% amid voter frustration over its failure to forge a ruling coalition with the Socialists and two smaller anti-graft groupings, Democratic Bulgaria and Stand Up! We Are Coming!.

Democratic Bulgaria has dropped to 10.2% from 12.6% in July, while the other party’s 3.6% support keeps it below the threshold for winning any seats.

The ethnic Turkish MRF party, which was in isolation in the previous two legislatures, had 9.8% support, the poll showed.

In a presidential election also due on Nov. 14, incumbent Rumen Radev, a harsh critic of Borissov, would win 46.4% of the vote for the largely ceremonial but influential post, the poll showed. A runoff vote is expected to be held on Nov. 21.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova, editing by Andrei Khalip)

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