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May 13, 2013

Conservatives Poised to Re-take Charge of Bulgaria Legislature

by VOA News

With most of the votes counted in Bulgaria's parliamentary elections held Sunday, the conservative GERB party looks to have won, just three months after leader and former prime minister Boykov Borisov stepped down in answer to anti-government protests.

However, the party has fallen far short of an absolute majority, and could be in for a struggle to form a government.

With nearly three-quarters of the votes counted, GERB has garnered 31 percent of the vote. It is followed by the Socialists with 27 percent. Trailing are the ethnic Turkish MRF party with 9 percent, and the nationalist Ataka party with nearly 8 percent - enough to be represented in parliament.

Borisov resigned three months ago in response to anti-government protests, as the nation grappled with high unemployment, a poor economy, and accusations of government corruption. After six years of European Union membership, it is still the poorest member of the trading bloc.

A caretaker administration organized the election. Officials results are expected late Monday.

If GERB is not able to form a coalition government, the Socialists will be given the opportunity. A stalemate could trigger another election.

Many Bulgarians complain that politicians spend more time bickering and enriching themselves than solving the country's problems. Almost one quarter of Bulgarians live below the poverty line. Some analysts say the unemployment rate is almost 20 percent.

Allegations of vote-rigging also marred the campaign. Authorities seized 350,000 illegal ballot papers on Saturday when they raided a printing house apparently owned by an ally of Borisov.

Five Bulgarian parties, not including GERB, have commissioned an independent vote count by an Austrian company to try to ensure the accuracy of those results.