Bulgaria: Poor cousin of EU goes to polls again

A man wearing a t-shirt with an image of Bulgarian strongman Boyko Borisov and GERB party leader casts his ballot. Picture: Getty
A man wearing a t-shirt with an image of Bulgarian strongman Boyko Borisov and GERB party leader casts his ballot. Picture: Getty
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BULGARIANS voted in a “last chance” snap general election yesterday, a poll that could leave them with another shaky coalition struggling to solve a bank crisis and revive growth in the European Union’s poorest member state.

Led by a former bodyguard and karate expert, the centre- right GERB party is expected to win but fall short of a majority, which could spark a period of haggling with smaller parties and the opposition. The new government will be the Balkan country’s fifth in under two years, a period that has seen mass street protests topple a previous GERB administration and nearly fell its successor.

More instability would be a turn-off for investors as well as voters, who have seen their country lurch from one crisis to the next. Foreign direct investment has fallen by more than a fifth this year.

A top priority for the new government will be to decide what to do with Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank), Bulgaria’s fourth-biggest lender, which was closed after a run on deposits in June and whose fate has been in limbo ever since.

The bank’s customers have been shut out of their accounts for more than three months and the bank’s main shareholder is charged with embezzlement.

But efforts to sort out the mess were derailed by political squabbles and it is still not clear as to whether the authorities will rescue the bank and how its depositors and bondholders will be treated.