Bulgarian Political Stability: A 12-Month Outlook

Bulgarians recently concluded a combative election cycle. The most recent round of votes is the fourth in 18 months. While former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s GERB party secured over 25% of the vote, the possibility of a fourth Borisov government hinges on the ability of GERB to form a coalition with rival parties. It is not yet clear if Borisov will be able to do this. In the midst of the war in Ukraine, the energy dynamics of the Balkans and a lacklustre economic forecast, Bulgaria faces a difficult year ahead.

KJ-1: It is highly unlikely that GERB will succeed in forming a coalition government in the next 12 months.

  • Allegations of corruption and mismanagement of public funds consistently plague GERB [source]. 
  • The coalition government of Petkov and Vasilev collapsed over the issue of North Macedonia’s ascension to the EU [source]. 
  • Borisov promised to mend relations with North Macedonia during a summit in Slovenia and put aside issues of national identity and language [source]. 
  • Former television personality Slavi Trifonov secured a majority in the 2021 elections, but his new party was unable to secure a coalition consensus [source].
  • The DPS party, led by Mustafa Karadayi, held onto a 13% share of the electorate on the basis of strong ethnic Turkish partisanship [soure]. 
  • Borisov suggested that he may forgo the role of Prime Minister in order to facilitate the coalition negotiations [source]. 
  • However, coalition negotiations must be approved by at least 121 parliamentarians across 7 separate parties [source].  

KJ-2: It is highly likely that the Bulgarian economy will suffer lacklustre performance in the next 12 months. 

  • GDP growth for the first quarter of 2022 registered at only .08%. GDP growth will reach 2.3% in 2023. [source].
  • By March of this year, the consumer confidence index plummeted which could imply a lower private consumption growth in the next 6 months [source].
  • On top of that, Bulgaria will suffer slower real wage growth and tougher lending conditions [source].
  • Inflation stands at over 12% this year and is forecast at 6.8% for 2023. This is due in part to higher food, energy and services prices [source].  
  • The war in Ukraine disrupted Bulgaria’s traditional reliance on Russian energy. As a result, Bulgaria is susceptible to fluctuations in the energy market and the trade sanctions regime [source].  
  • The Bulgarian labour market suffers the effect of decreasing population growth [source].
  • As highlighted by the consecutive snap elections, Bulgaria must overcome weak institutional frameworks and embedded government corruption [source]. 
  • The poverty rate will remain at over 6% by 2023 [source].
  • The fiscal deficit will increase to 4% of GDP in 2023 and the current account deficit will expand to 2.3% of GDP as well as a result of higher import prices [source]. 

KJ-3: It is likely that Russian GRU operations will increase in Bulgaria in the next 12 months.

  • The pro-Kremlin Bulgarian Socialist Party, a continuation of the communist era counterpart, secured 25 deputies in the Bulgarian parliament. Stephen Yanev’s party, Bulgaria Rise, secured 12 [source].
  • Yanev, the former Defense Minister, was dismissed by Petkov after he refused to adequately describe Russia’s military operation in Ukraine as an invasion [source]. 
  • The Bulgarian Socialists issued a muted statement on Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory [source]. The ultranationalist Revival party led by Kostadin Kostadinov explicitly blamed Ukraine and NATO for the invasion [source]. 
  • Bulgaria expelled over 70 Russian diplomats over charges of espionage in June [source]. 
  • Emilian Gebrev, a Bulgarian arms dealer, survived a Novichok attack in 2015 carried out by GRU operatives. Gebre supplies military arms and munitions to Ukraine [source]. Bulgarian prosecutors charged three Russian nationals linked to the GRU [source].
  • The persons responsible for the poisoning are GRU operatives Denis Sergeyev (aka Sergei Fedotov) and Yegor Gordiyenko (aka Georgy Gorshkov) [source].
  • At least 5 storage facilities owned by Gebrev suffered severe explosions set off by GRU operatives. The most recent explosion occurred this year in Karnobat [source]. Similar explosions occurred in Iganovo, Maglizh and Gorni Lom, two of which left 16 people dead [source].
  • A suspected GRU operative Vladimir Moiseyev (aka Vladimir Popov) travelled to Bulgaria coterminously to several explosions. He is wanted in Montenegro for orchestrating an attempted coup in 2016 [source]. 
  • Russia recently accused Bulgaria of participating in the bombing of the Crimean bridge [source].  
  • Russia regularly subjects Bulgarians to disinformation campaigns and attempts to raise funds for its war effort from ordinary Bulgarian citizens [source].
  • Bulgaria and Greece opened a gas pipeline in order to circumvent the need for Russian gas [source]. 
  • Bulgaria refused to purchase Russian gas with rubles, leading to a suspension of gas flows. Moreover, Bulgaria intends to procure fuel for the Kozloduy nuclear plant and the future Belene plant without the help of Moscow [source]. 
  • The US Army’s 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) is in Bulgaria in order to establish a new NATO multinational force [source]. 

Intelligence Cut-Off Date 15 October 2022

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