Bulgaria's new anti-elite faction tied with GERB ahead of Sunday snap polls

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s new anti-establishment party There Is Such a People (ITN) remains closely tied in popularity with the centre-right GERB, which has been in power for most of the past decade, ahead of a July 11 snap election, two opinion polls showed on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Boyko Borissov, former Bulgarian Prime Minister and leader of the centre-right GERB party poses for a picture with a supporter during an election rally in Kardzhali, Bulgaria, July 5, 2021. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov/File Photo

Anger at graft-prone political elites, which many blame for ensuring Bulgaria remains the European Union’s poorest and most corrupt member state, has boosted support for ITN, founded by TV talk-show host Slavi Trifonov.

Thursday’s polls by Sofia-based Alpha Research and Gallup International showed support for ITN has risen to 21.3-21.8% from the 17.7% it won in an April general election, when it was the second largest party.

The centre-right GERB, led by long-serving former prime minister Boyko Borissov has mobilised its supporters in the run-up to the Sunday vote and was 0.3%-1.0% behind ITN, according to the two surveys, but was still below the 26.2% it won in April.

GERB emerged as the largest party after the election three months ago, but failed to form a government as other parties have shunned it amid popular anger at entrenched corruption.

Sunday’s snap poll is being held to break the deadlock, after ITN also failed to secure a parliamentary majority.

The opinion polls suggest that support for ITN, and its potential partners, the anti-graft Democratic Bulgaria and Stand Up! Mafia Out! will not be enough for the three to muster a parliamentary majority.

Democratic Bulgaria is projected to get 12%-12.2% of the vote, while Stand Up! Mafia Out! is on course for 5.4%-6.1%.

“Despite their improved positions, the protest parties do not gain 120 seats” (needed for a majority), Alpha Research said in a statement. “That is why the coalition formula is likely to be the cornerstone in the next parliament as it was after the April vote.”

Bulgaria has almost doubled the number of voting stations abroad for the Sunday poll - which may boost the results for ITN and Democratic Bulgaria, the main recipients of votes from expatriates in the previous election, analysts say.

Two more parties have a chance to enter the next parliament. The Socialists remained the third-most popular party with 15.9-16.4%, while support for the ethnic-Turkish MRF party stood at 11.5%.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by William Maclean