For the fifth time in two years – an EU record – voters in Bulgaria, at the limit of their patience, are called to the polls to elect their new parliament, against a background of political deadlock and division over support for Sofia in Ukraine, where the war that broke out when Russia’s military invaded in February 2022 continues to rage.

These elections were called because no party was able to form a government after the previous one, which was held just six months ago.

The hopes raised by the wave of mass anti-corruption protests in the summer of 2020 now seem far-fetched in the country of 6.5 million people, the poorest member state of the European Union and NATO, which has been mired in political crisis.

Recent opinion polls indicate that two pro-Western factions will fight head-to-head.

The centre-right GERB-SDS alliance of former prime minister Boyko Borisov, 63, and the business-friendly conservative PP-DB bloc of former prime minister Kirill Petkov, 42, are said to garner around 25-26% of voter intentions, according to polls.

Since the fall of Mr. Borisov after a decade in power, no party capable of securing a large majority or a stable coalition has emerged, and interim governments have been in succession.

Economic languor exacerbated by the fallout from the war in Ukraine and division in a country historically and culturally close to Moscow, divided over aid to Kiev, add to the climate of disillusionment.

Polling stations will open at 07:00 and close at 20:00. Exit polls will follow shortly after, but official final results are not expected for up to four days.

The anxiety of many Bulgarians is that today’s polls will result in the same balance of power and thus the political stalemate will be reproduced, while the population is unable to cope with inflation, sinks into poverty and complains about the deplorable state of the health system.