Sofia: Bulgaria was set today for further political uncertainty after elections for the troubled European country's third government in less than two years handed a hollow victory to tough ex-premier Boyko Borisov.
Borisov, who resigned as prime minister of the European Union's poorest country in February 2013, saw his right-wing GERB party come first but with only around 90 seats in parliament, some 30 short of an absolute majority.
"I want to govern, in person," former bodyguard and karate black belt Borisov told reporters late yesterday, calling on other party leaders to take time to think "carefully" before ruling out working with him.
The alternative, the 55-year-old added in dramatic fashion, would be "new elections" and "bankruptcy" for the European Union's poorest country, he said.
Whether he can manage to cobble together a coalition, or at least enough support in the 240-seat legislature, to govern at the head of a minority government is uncertain.
In second place were the Socialists with 36-42 seats, followed by the Turkish minority party MRF on 35-39 seats. Both parties backed the previous technocrat government that collapsed in July.
Reducing the number of seats for the big parties and making the formation of a government even more difficult, four or so other parties appeared to have cleared the four-per cent hurdle to enter what will be a highly fragmented parliament.
The new government, assuming it can be formed, will have its work cut out improving the sluggish economy, needing to implement unpopular reforms and get to grips with rampant corruption, cronyism and organised crime.
The average monthly salary in this southeastern European country of 7.4 million is the equivalent of 400 euros (USD 500), and seven years after joining the EU every fifth household lives below the poverty line.
Dark clouds hang over Bulgaria's financial system with the country's fourth-biggest lender on the brink of collapse, raising memories of 1996-7 when 14 Bulgarian banks collapsed.
Undermining faith in democracy in ex-communist Bulgaria - and earning it criticism from Brussels - is the perception that a well-connected clique are still lining their pockets and are above the law.
Anger at such corruption and poverty erupted in nationwide protests that saw several people die after setting themselves on fire two winters ago.
In government was none other than Borisov, who resigned as premier in February 2013.