(Reuters) - Bulgaria held a parliamentary election on Sunday, important for the country’s ability to overcome recession and combat widespread corruption and crime after years of reform inertia.
Here are facts about its main political parties.
GERB (Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria)
Set up in 2006, GERB draws much of its support from the popularity of its straight-talking leader Boiko Borisov, who is also Sofia mayor.
The 50-year-old former bodyguard to the late communist dictator Todor Zhivkov and ex-king Simeon II when he was prime minister between 2001-2005, has shot to fame on a pledge to get tough on crime bosses.
Political observers warn his ability to show results may be hampered if he is forced into a coalition government.
Borisov has said GERB will not enter into a coalition with the Socialists and their junior partner, the ethnic Turkish MRF, as well as the ultra-nationalist Attack.
Polls show it may garner about a third of the vote.
Heirs to the communists, whose single-party rule ended in 1989, the Socialists came to power in 2005 after being in opposition for more than a decade and forming a coalition with the ethnic Turkish MRF and the NMSP of ex-king Simeon II.
The Socialist-led government took Bulgaria into the European Union, cut corporate and income taxes and oversaw years of economic boom.
But its rule was marred by a failure to spur sustainable
development, leading to deep economic imbalances that now threaten to lock Bulgaria, the EU’s poorest member, in recession for several years.
The government has been widely accused of incompetence and lacking political will to sever links between politicians, the judiciary and crime bosses. The lack of results forced Brussels to freeze hundreds of millions of euros in EU aid.
Polls show public support of about 20 percent.
The liberal MRF party is the political representation of the ethnic Turks and other Muslims, who make up about 12 percent of Bulgaria’s 7.6 million population.
The MRF is set to retain its third place. In the past two elections the party emerged as a powerbroker mainly due to indecisive results. Leader Ahmed Dogan has said Bulgaria would not be able to form a government without the MRF this summer.
Resentment among Orthodox Christian Bulgarians, who make up more than 80 percent of the population, toward the MRF is growing because it has been involved in some of the major corruption scandals in the past eight years.
Nationalist Attack party exploits the historical pride of the predominantly Orthodox Christian nation, resentment toward the Turkish population and anger toward political elites.
The party demands Turkey pay Bulgaria 50 billion euros as compensation for “genocide” in Bulgaria during the five-century Ottoman rule that ended in 1878.
It opposes Turkey joining the EU and any cooperation with the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, and wants Bulgaria to leave NATO. Support for Attack stands at 10 percent.
A collection of opposition groups which include the Union of Democratic Forces, the first post-1989 democratic party.
The UDF is credited with launching free market reforms. But, the right-leaning grouping has lost much of its support in recent years due to infighting and allegations of corruption.
GERB sees the Blue Coalition as its main potential partner.
Founded in 2001 and headed by Bulgaria’s former king Simeon II the centrist party won elections that year by a landslide as on hopes he could bolster the economy and uproot crime.
The rightist, populist Order, Law and Justice, set up in 2005, has seen its popularity rise sharply over the recent months after its leader Yane Yanev began sending information to prosecutors over cases of alleged high-level graft and fraud.
The rightist party is led unofficially by Bulgaria’s energy tycoon Hristo Kovachki. Critics say its main aim is to cement links between big business and politics.
Compiled by Tsvetelia Ilieva and Irina Ivanova