Exit polls in Bulgaria suggest the party of center-right leader Boiko Borisov narrowly won the most votes in a parliamentary election, just three months after he resigned as prime minister under pressure from anti-government protests.
The surveys released at the close of Sunday's voting indicated Borisov's GERB party won 30 to 33 percent of the vote, ahead of the Socialists, who were projected to get 25 to 27 percent. If the result is confirmed, it would leave Borisov short of a majority in parliament, meaning he would have to try to form a majority coalition.
Smaller parties expected to win parliamentary seats include the ethnic Turkish minority, MRF, and the ultranationalist Ataka.
Some observers predicted the election will leave Bulgaria in a political stalemate and force a new election.
Borisov resigned in February after a series of sometimes violent mass protests against poverty and corruption in Bulgaria. A caretaker administration was installed to organize the election. Officials results are expected on Monday.
Many Bulgarians complain that politicians spend more time bickering and enriching themselves than solving the country's problems. Six years after Bulgaria joined the European Union, it is the bloc's poorest country, with almost one quarter of Bulgarians living 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.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.