Bulgaria is a country located in the region of Eastern Europe. After a couple of turbulent years, with extensive street protests and two new elections in 2013–2014, a quieter period followed in Bulgaria. In the fall of 2016, new political uncertainty arose when Prime Minister Bojko Borisov resigned in protest against the victory in the presidential election, Rumen Radev, whom Borisov described as too Russia-friendly. In the new election held in 2017, Borisov’s right-wing party Gerb again became by far the largest party, and despite his aloofness towards Radev, Borisov formed the government for the third time, now with a right-wing party.
The political situation seemed to stabilize in 2015 when the government managed to implement some promised reforms. Borisov, who after the 2014 elections formed a minority government with the right-wing Alliance Reformist bloc and the center-left alliance ABV, was supported in Parliament by the Nationalist Alliance United Patriots, which included the right-wing party Attack.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Bulgaria, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
Gerb strengthened its grip on power in the municipal elections in the fall of 2015, when the party took power in almost all major cities.
As the influx of refugees from mainly the Middle East increased sharply, Bulgaria built a fence along the border with Turkey. The army was deployed to stop people from entering the country. Tensions existed between locals and refugees, of which only a minority applied for asylum in Bulgaria. An increasingly immigrant- and Muslim-hostile opinion was heard and the authorities were criticized by the outside world for hard-working refugee treatment.
The election of Rumen Radev as new president in November 2016 led to a new election. Radev, who until then was an Air Force chief and lacked political background, was nominated by the Socialist Party. He was considered to be close to Moscow and had openly advocated that the EU should suspend sanctions against Russia (introduced after the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014). In the second round of elections, Radev won over the government and Gerb’s candidate, President Tsetska Tsatjeva.
Borisov had already said in advance that he could not possibly cooperate with a president who wanted to strengthen relations with Russia. The view of Russia is a water divide in Bulgaria that has a large Prorian population, and where Russia’s interests are promoted both by the parties on the left and by nationalists such as the United Patriots. However, for Borisov’s conservative party Gerb, the close ties to Russia belong to Bulgaria’s “dark past”.
When it became clear that Radev won, Borisov filed his resignation, and in March 2017, elections were held for Parliament, the third new election in four years. In the recent election, Gerb became the largest party and strengthened his position by ten terms. Despite previous criticism of Radev, Borisov formed a new government, now with the United Patriots. The government received a narrow margin in parliament – two votes. United Patriots were assigned four ministerial posts: the Ministry of Defense, the Economy, the Environment and the Social. The party was also allowed to occupy two of the four posts as deputy head of government.
With United Patriots in government, politics made a turn to the right. This was manifested, among other things, by demands for the return of compulsory military service and by proposals that government grants and other benefits should not include minorities. In early 2018, the United Patriots led the opposition to the adoption of the Istanbul Convention, which aims to curb violence against women. In the convention text, the term gender is defined as a social concept, not a biological one, which is why United Patriots, the Orthodox Church and the country’s Muslim minority prevented Parliament from approving the convention. Although Bulgarian law prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, the view on LGBTQ issues is generally conservative. There is discrimination against sexual minorities, as well as harassment and abuse.
The fight against widespread corruption and organized crime is a high priority (see Democracy and Rights). An anti-corruption law has been adopted and a special court for corruption cases at the highest level has been established.
Measures to reform the judiciary have received praise from the EU, which has also drawn attention to the government’s progress in curbing organized crime. As recently as 2012, the EU Commission wrote in a report that Bulgarian criminal leagues, targeting, among other things, human trafficking and credit card fraud, have embedded themselves in 15 EU countries, and that the mafia networks had a “unique” position in the Bulgarian society with a great influence over the country’s economy. By the end of 2018, the EU considered that organized crime could be erased from the points that the EU required Bulgaria to take after the country’s EU accession in 2007.
The work against corruption seemed to have an effect in the spring of 2019 when four high-ranking members of the ruling Gerb, including the Minister of Justice, were forced to resign. They were suspected of having bought luxury apartments at budget prices in the capital. The scandal undermined Gerb’s position before the EU elections in late May. Continued general dissatisfaction with low and improved living standards was expected to work in the same direction, but Gerb still won the election with a good margin for the Socialist Party which came second (see Calendar). Socialist Party leader Kornelia Ninova had hoped that the party would win because of the scandals that struck Gerb. When that was not the case, Ninova chose to resign at the same time as she announced that she intended to stand for election to a new party leader.
FACTS – POLITICS
Republic of Bulgaria / Republic of Bulgaria
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Rumen Radev (2017–)
Head of government
Prime Minister Bojko Borisov (2017–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
Gerb 95, BSP for Bulgaria (Alliance led by Socialist Party) 80, United Patriots (Patriotic Front + Attack) 27, The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) 26, Volja (Determination) 12 (2017)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
Gerb 84, Socialist Party 39, Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) 38, Reformist Block 23, Patriotic Front 19, Bulgaria without Censorship 15, Attack 11, The Alternative for Bulgarian Renewal 11 (2014)
52.6% in the 2017 parliamentary elections; 56 + 50% in the two rounds of the 2016 presidential election
parliamentary elections 2021, presidential elections 2021