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(Bloomberg) — Bulgaria’s powerful former prime minister Boyko Borissov is on course to win the country’s sixth election in just over three years, but will fall short of a majority needed to end a political deadlock. 

Borissov’s conservative Gerb party secured 26.2% of the vote on Sunday, according to an exit poll by Alpha Research published by BNT broadcaster. His main challenger, a bloc of parties campaigning on an anti-corruption platform and led by another former premier, Kiril Petkov, had 15.7%. 

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The European Union’s poorest nation has struggled to put an end to a stalemate since 2021, when Borissov left office after more than a decade of dominating Bulgarian politics in the midst of anti-corruption protests. 

The country of 6.5 million has since been governed by a string of failed coalitions and interim administrations, which have hobbled efforts to confront the region’s energy crisis and steer Bulgaria into the euro area. 

The last coalition was a tenuous alliance between Borissov’s and Petkov’s factions that fell apart after less than a year because of infighting over filling administrative appointments and reforms measures. 

Borissov has a narrow path to return to power for a fourth term. One would be an alliance with a controversial power broker sanctioned for corruption, Delyan Peevski, who leads the Movement for Rights and Freedoms. 

Six parties secured seats in parliament in Sofia, polls showed. The nationalist Revival party, which wants Bulgaria to exit the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has 14.5%, while Movement for Rights and Freedoms won 14.3% with Socialists at 9.1%. First official results may come overnight.

The turmoil has helped to postpone Bulgaria’s goal to enter the euro area and delayed EU recovery funding. The war in Ukraine has added to the upheaval, with Bulgaria abutting the Black Sea, where Russia has attacked Ukrainian forces and disrupted trade.   

Borissov will be the first to receive a mandate to form a government from President Rumen Radev. He hasn’t ruled out running for prime minister for a fourth term. 

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