Parliamentary Elections

April 4, 2021 (regular); July 11, 2021 (snap elections); November 14, 2021 (snap elections)


Bulgaria held its third election in 2021 on November 14th after elections in both April and July failed to lead to the formation of a government. This election led to a victory for the newly formed We continue the Change (PP) party, with 25.7% of the vote in their first-ever election (67 seats).

Boyko Borisov’s GERB party was narrowly defeated, finishing with 22.7% of the votes (-0.8% from July 2021) and 59 seats (-4 seats from July 2021).

The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) came third with 13% of the vote (+2.3% from July 2021) and 34 seats (+5 from July 2021)

We Continue the Change (PP) is negotiating to form a coalition government based on an anti-corruption agenda together with There are Such People (ITN) and Democratic Bulgaria (DB), with the support of Bulgarian Socialist Party.

Voter turnout was 38%. As a comparison, the April 2021 election had a voter turnout of 49,1%.


  • Unicameral parliament (National Assembly) in a parliamentary constitutional republic; there are 240 seats in the National Assembly; members are elected to a four-year term.
  • Members are elected by closed-list proportional representation; voting threshold of 4% to enter parliament. The National Assembly elects the Prime Minister.
  • Bulgaria typically has fairly voter low turnout, with only 54% of the population participating in the last parliament election in 2017.


  • Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB): Center-right; conservative and populist, but pro-European; led by current Prime Minister Boyko Borisov; a series of high-profile corruption scandals implicating the government and Borisov sparked a wave of anti-government protests last summer.
  • Coalition for Bulgaria (BSP): center-left; left-wing populism; socially conservative; the coalition is led by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Bulgaria’s main opposition party; BSP is pro-European but has criticized sanctions on Russia and the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Bulgaria due to allegations of spying.
  • There are Such People (ITN): led by Slavi Trifonov, a popular talk-show host; big tent political party; populist; pro-European; platform has a significant focus on anti-corruption measures and electoral reforms; has rejected forming a coalition with either GERB or BSP.
  • Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS): center; liberal; ethnic-Turkish party that also claims to represent the interests of other minorities; the party has also been mired by corruption scandals, including against its former leader Ahmed Dogan; media mogul and former Interior Minister Delyan Peevski, who has been implicated in multiple allegations of corruption, is also a member of the DPS.
  • Democratic Bulgaria (DB): center-right; liberal; pro-European; platform has focused on media freedom, anti-corruption measures, and judicial reform; helped set-off anti-government protests last summer.
  • Stand Up Bulgaria (ISBG): led by Maya Manalova, formerly of the BSP; platform focuses on economic growth, reversing state capture; the party also supported anti-government protests last summer.
  • United Patriots (OB): far-right; conservative; Euroskeptic; pro-Russian; coalition is led by Bulgarian National Movement (IMRO); currently part of the ruling coalition with GERB.
  • We Continue the Change (PP): center; anti-corruption; pro-European; the party was formed in September 2021 by Kiril Petkov and Asen Vasilev, who served as caretaker Economy and Finance Ministers, respectively. The party’s platform is centered on anti-corruption reforms and strengthening the economy.

Impact on U.S. Interests

  • A Black Sea nation and a NATO member since 2004, Bulgaria is an important ally along NATO’s southeastern flank; Bulgaria contributed troops to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and participates in the NATO training mission in Iraq.
  • Russia’s political and economic influence in Bulgaria is significant. In March 2021 Bulgaria arrested six defense and intelligence officials accused of passing classified material on Bulgaria, the EU, and NATO to the Russian embassy in Sofia.
  • In June 2021, the United States sanctioned three Bulgarian officials and 64 entities under the Global Magnitsky Act for “significant acts of corruption.” One of the sanctioned figures, Vassil Bozhkov, is currently residing in Dubai (allegedly avoiding justice) but is still running with his Bulgarian Summer party. Another one was Delyan Peevski from the DPS.
  • Bulgaria signed a landmark friendship treaty with neighboring North Macedonia in 2017, ending long-standing disputes between the two countries. However, in 2020 Bulgaria refused to approve the start of EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia, objecting to references to the “Macedonian” language, which Bulgaria sees as derivative of Bulgarian.
  • Bulgaria is also highly reliant on Russia for natural gas, importing 2.39 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia in 2019. Projects like the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, the Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector, and an LNG terminal in Alexandroupoli could help decrease Bulgaria’s reliance on Russian gas even as Gazprom completes projects like Turkstream 2 in the region.

Key Issues to Watch

  • A series of high-profile corruption scandals in 2020 fueled popular discontent over corruption in the judiciary and highlighted shadowy links between powerful oligarchs and government officials, the security services, and organized crime. This wave of anti-government protests has been bolstered in 2021 by the caretaker government of Stefan Yanev’s active investigations into the Borisov government’s practices, uncovering more alleged wrongdoing.
  • GERB’s popularity, which had crept back up before the April election due to a lack of strong political alternatives, is down again following recent allegations. With GERB and ITN in a statistical dead heat and the BSP close behind, it is very difficult to predict which coalition could come out of these snap elections. GERB’s previous coalition partner, United Patriots, may come back to Parliament if its polling holds. Talks may not be as drawn-out as in April as anti-GERB parties would likely want to get such a coalition locked in as fast as possible.
  • Bulgaria’s Covid-19 vaccination drive has slowed down dramatically, causing worries of a fourth wave with the Delta variant spreading across Europe. It is unclear how the pandemic will impact this second election, but turnout in April was only 49.1% (3 points down from the previous election in 2017).


Source: Politico Poll of Polls

Source: Politico Poll of Polls