Opinion polls show that the ballot will likely leave the European country short of a functioning parliamentary majority again.

Dual citizens in Türkiye’s Kirklareli and Tekirdag provinces vote in Bulgaria’s parliamentary election.
Dual citizens in Türkiye’s Kirklareli and Tekirdag provinces vote in Bulgaria’s parliamentary election. (AA)

Bulgarians are heading to the polling stations for the fifth parliamentary election in two years amid rising resentment towards political elites who many see as unwilling to tackle graft and economic reforms.

Opinion polls on Sunday show the ballot will likely leave Bulgaria short of a functioning parliamentary majority again, putting in question its ambitions to join the eurozone in the near term and effectively use European Union Covid recovery aid.

Voting starts at 7 am and ends at 8 pm [local time].

Bulgarian citizens living in Türkiye are also voting at 162 centres.

In the running is a coalition of the centre-right GERB party of former long-serving premier Boyko Borissov, 63, and its small Union of Democratic Forces [SDS] partner, as well as the newly established coalition of the pro-Western We Continue the Change [PP] party and reformist Democratic Bulgaria [DB].

"Regardless of which of the two comes first, it does not solve the big question — what are the prospects of forming a government," said Genoveva Petrova of Alpha Research.

"Parties in Bulgaria have had four interim parliaments to realise that there is no political force at the moment that has not just an absolute majority but a large enough advantage to set the agenda," Petrova added.

The two coalitions are neck and neck in opinion polls, with the latest by Exacta Research Group showing them at 26.2 percent and 25.6 percent, respectively, and the nationalist Revival party at 12.8 percent.

READ MORE: Bulgaria announces snap general elections

Corruption, Russia ties

Complicating coalition building are accusations by many of his political rivals that Borissov had not done enough to stop corruption in the country during his decade-long rule that ended in 2021, which is something that Borissov denies.

At stake could also be Bulgaria's stance on Russia's offensive in Ukraine.

Once an ally of President Vladimir Putin, Sofia has supported Kiev since Moscow launched what it calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

The two coalitions in the running on Sunday want Bulgaria to maintain its pro-Ukraine stance, but President Rumen Radev, who has wielded much power throughout the political instability, has pushed for a more nuanced approach.

READ MORE: Bulgaria impasse grinds as parliament rejects technocrat government

Worrying spiral' 

"Faced with war and inflation, (Bulgarian) society is crying out for a solution," Parvan Simeonov, a political analyst with Gallup International, told AFP news agency.

The fight against corruption has taken a back seat, leaving many 2020 protesters disillusioned.

"I fear the influence of pro-Russian parties in the next parliament," Ognian Peychev, a 60-year-old engineer, told AFP at a recent protest against the war in Ukraine.

The ultra-nationalist Vazrazhdane party, which defends the Kremlin's war, stands to gain some 13 percent of the votes, according to polls, up from the 10 percent it won at the last general election in October.

The Socialist BSP, the successor of Bulgaria's Communist Party, has also sided with Moscow and objects to sending weapons to Ukrainian forces.

"Both Petkov and Borisov are too aggressively critical of Russia," said Mariana Valkova, a 62-year-old entrepreneur who used to work in what was then the Soviet Union.

"I'd rather there wasn't a government and (President Rumen) Radev remained in charge."

Pro-Russian Radev, who has appointed interim cabinets between the string of inconclusive elections, has denounced Petkov and his allies as "warmongers".

He has also spoken out against sending arms to Ukraine.

At the same time, Bulgaria's munitions factories have been running at full capacity making ammunition to be exported to Kiev via third countries.

READ MORE: Bulgaria announces snap general elections

Source: TRTWorld and agencies