On Saturday, 1 October in Latvia and Sunday, 2 October in Bulgaria, general elections were held. In Latvia, the incumbent centre-right New Unity party led by Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš, became the largest party. While in Bulgaria, the centre-right GERB party, led by former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, emerged as the largest party. This Just the Facts examines the 2022 campaigns and results.
Elections in Latvia and Bulgaria
Latvia is a unicameral, parliamentary democratic republic. It uses a proportional representation system to elect members to the country’s parliament, known as the Saeima. The parliament is made up of 100 MPs, elected from 5 multi-seat constituencies.
Candidates may run either as members of registered political parties or as part of an alliance of parties. Elections to the Saemia take place every four years and are usually held on the first Saturday of October. Nine elections have been held since Latvia gained independence from the USSR in 1990. No party has ever secured an outright majority in the Saeima.
It is up to the president to form a government. They will usually nominate a prime ministerial candidate who has the best chance of brokering a deal with other parties to form a coalition government.
The current Prime Minister since January 2019 is Krišjānis Kariņš of the New Unity Party. The last general election in Latvia was in October 2018. The current President of Latvia is Egils Levits, who has held the position since July 2019.
Bulgaria is also a unicameral, parliamentary democratic republic. The National Assembly (Narodno sabranie) is the legislative body of Bulgaria, and is made up of 240 MPs, all of whom are elected through proportional representation across 31 multi-seat constituencies.
The party with the largest number of seats in the National Assembly nominates a candidate to become prime minister. This candidate must be approved by the National Assembly and the president in order to take up office. Once the prime minister has secured a mandate from parliament, they can attempt to form a government.
The current Prime Minister since August 2022 has been Galab Donev, an independent politician. The last general election in Bulgaria was in November 2021. The current President of Bulgaria is Rumen Radev, who has held the position since January 2017.
2022 Campaign Issues
In Latvia, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine emerged as one of the main campaign issues. Many voters were concerned about Russian ‘aggression and expansionism’, a concern mirrored by the outgoing government. Prime Minister Karinš had been leading a minority coalition government composed of New Unity, the New Conservative Party, For a Humane Latvia (previously known as ‘Who Owns the State?’), Development/For! and National Alliance.
In the previous election, the opposition Harmony party was the single largest party with almost 20% of the vote but did not enter government. It is the preferred choice among Latvia’s ethnic-Russian minority. However, the party was vocal in its “immediate and staunch opposition” to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, leading to political disintegration among the ethnic Russian minority population.
Other issues which have featured heavily in this election campaign have been record high levels of inflation and the increased cost of living, including rising energy bills.
In Bulgaria, elections were held in April 2021 to form a new government, after the completion of the previous government’s five-year term. This was a coalition government led by the centre right ‘Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria’ (GERB), with its leader Boyko Borissov as Prime Minister.
The April election failed to produce a new government resulting in a snap election in July 2021, which again failed to produce any clear winner or coalition that could form a new government.
This resulted in another election in November 2021 which produced a coalition government led by the centrist, pro-European and pro-Ukrainian ‘We Continue the Change’ (PP) party, with Kiril Petkov as Prime Minister. However, Petkov’s coalition government collapsed following a vote of no confidence in July of this year, which brought about the October 2022 election.
European Movement Ireland produced Just the Facts publications on each of these elections – April 2021, July 2021 and November 2021.
A focal point of Bulgaria’s election, and an issue contributing to Bulgaria’s fragile political system, has been allegations of corruption. GERB has been accused of allowing widespread corruption in Bulgaria, and numerous protests against government corruption took place between 2020 and 2021. The PP party came to power last November having campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, with Petkov stating that he would “free Bulgaria from corruption”.
Aside from corruption, energy has emerged as a key issue in this campaign due to rising electricity prices and fears over Bulgaria’s energy security. Other issues included the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has divided Bulgaria’s politicians, and the rising cost of living.
2022 Election Results
In Latvia, the incumbent centre-right New Unity party won 19% of the vote, becoming the largest party, which has put Prime Minister Kariņš in position to lead another coalition government. Harmony received 4.8% of the vote, a significant reduction from the 20% it gained in the 2018 election, likely caused by its opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It is expected that the makeup of the incoming coalition government will be similar to that of the outgoing government.
In Bulgaria, Boyko Borissov’s centre right GERB party won 25.4% of the vote, while ‘We Continue the Change’, led by Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, came in second with 20% of the vote. This means that Borissov will be tasked with forming a coalition government, the likelihood of which seems low considering a widespread reluctance among other parties to enter government with GERB. As such, Bulgaria may be heading for another election in the coming months.
Results of the 2022 General Election in Latvia
|Party||European Parliament Group||2018||2022||Change|
|New Unity||European People’s Party||8||26||+18|
|Union of Greens & Farmers||Unaffiliated (politically: centre-right)||11||16||+5|
|United List||Unaffiliated (politically: centre)||0||15||+15|
|National Alliance||European Conservatives and Reformists||13||13||–|
|For Stability!||Unaffiliated (politically: centre-right)||0||11||+11|
|The Progressives||Greens–European Free Alliance||0||10||+10|
|Latvia First||Unaffiliated (politically: far-right)||0||9||+9|
Results of the 2022 General Election in Bulgaria
|Party||April 2021||July 2021||Nov. 2021||Oct. 2022||Change||European Parliament Group|
|GERB||75||63||59||67||+8||European People’s Party|
|PP||0||0||67||53||-14||Unaffiliated (politically: centre)|
|Revival||0||0||13||27||+14||Unaffiliated (politically: far-right)|
|BSPzB||43||36||26||25||-1||Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats|
|DB||27||34||16||20||+4||European People’s Party|
|BV||New||12||+12||Unaffiliated (politically: centre-right)|
|ITN||51||64||25||0||-25||Unaffiliated (politically: broad)|
|IBG-NI||14||14||0||0||–||Unaffiliated (politically: centre)|