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Bulgarians elect a new parliament amid an epidemic

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) – Bulgarians went to the polls on Sunday to vote in a new parliament amid rising anti-government protests amid rising coronavirus infections.

The 12,000 polling stations opened at 7 a.m. and closed at 8 p.m. for the 6.7 million eligible voters who are electing 240 lawmakers.

The vote is widely seen as a referendum by Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. The 61-year-old machinist-style political Mauritius has led his center-right GERB party for more than a decade, now hoping to win his fourth term.

Borisov’s support at home ք began to crumble after thousands took to the streets, accusing his government of meddling with the oligarchs, failing to eradicate poverty and misery, and reviewing the judiciary.

Western partners have repeatedly criticized the Balkans for corruption, the rule of law, and shortcomings in media freedom.

Still, recent opinion polls suggest that while voting could create a fragmented parliament that will fight for a new government, Borisov’s GERB party will emerge as the largest in parliament. It topped the polls by 5-10 percentage points ahead of its main challenge, the Socialists, but was far from gaining an absolute majority to lead alone.

It is expected that several small groups, sitting on the wave of strong anti-government sentiments, will pass the 4% barrier to enter the parliament for the first time. One of them, led by popular TV entertainment, ranks third.

Despite the opposition’s criticism of the ineffective response to the epidemic, incumbent voter turnout may be boosted by the expected low turnout due to fears of infection, lack of postal or proxy voting.

The results of the exit polls will be announced immediately after the end of the voting. Preliminary results are expected around midnight on Sunday.

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