Bulgaria’s ruling centre-right GERB party has extended its lead over the opposition Socialists ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary election but is set to fall short of a majority as smaller parties win seats, an opinion poll published on Thursday showed.
However, with coronavirus infections surging in the country, the expected turnout could vary from around a half of eligible voters to less than third, making the outcome harder to predict, independent pollster Alpha Research said.
Its poll showed 28.1% of Bulgarians planning to vote on Sunday would support GERB, which is led by three-times Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, while 19.8% would support the Bulgarian Socialist Party.
Seven parties are expected to win seats in the 240-member parliament, the poll of 1,007 people, conducted between March 27 and 30 showed, meaning neither of the big players look on course for a clear majority coalition.
Given the concern around COVID-19, the pollster said voter turnout could vary widely between 2.1 and 2.8 million people. Some 3.5 million Bulgarians voted in the last parliamentary election in the European Union’s poorest member state in 2017.
“If fear of contagion prevails on the election day, it could paint a very different picture from what we see now. Thus, at this last moment, the virus will hold the ‘trump card’ not the parties,” the pollster said in a statement.
Health Minister Kosadin Angelov said on Thursday the country was at the peak of its third wave, with more than 4,200 daily new infections and over 10,000 people in hospitals. The authorities are easing some restrictions, citing a rising number of people vaccinated and those who have recovered.
The pollster said a lower turnout would help parties with a strong core base of support and would also allow smaller parties close to the threshold to enter parliament. A higher turnout will help protest parties win more seats, it said.
GERB has slowly regained support after anti-corruption protests last summer. The Socialists were down 3.7 percentage points, as its older support base looks less likely to vote due to fears of COVID-19.
The poll put There is Such A People, an anti-elite party led by TV talk show host and singer Slavi Trifonov, on 12.7%. The ethnic-Turkish MRF party was on 12.5% and the Democratic Bulgaria coalition on 6.3%.
A centre-left coalition that emerged after the protests, Stand Up! Mafia Out! is on course for 6% of the vote, and the nationalist VMRO party is on the 4% threshold to enter parliament, the poll showed.
Main Photo: A cleaning employee sweeps in front of campaign posters of Bulgaria’s centre-right ruling GERB party with pictures of Bulgarian Prime minister Boyko Borissov in Bankaj, Bulgaria. EPA-EFE/VASSIL DONEV