SOFIA, Bulgaria — Eastern Europe’s economic downturn looks set to fell another government, this time in Bulgaria where a populist mayor with a black belt in karate is leading the polls over the ruling Socialists ahead of parliamentary elections Sunday.

Using the slogan “Bulgaria, yes we can!,” Sofia Mayor Boiko Borisov, head of the center-right GERB party, is pledging to revive the economy and clamp down on chronic corruption that has led the European Union to freeze €1.1 billion ($1.56 billion) in development funding for its poorest member state.

Mr. Borisov’s populist views on law and order, and his vague economic platform, make foreign investors nervous. But he also says he will turn to the IMF for help, something the current government has resisted and most economists would applaud. At 24%, Bulgaria’s current account deficit — a rough proxy for reliance on external funding — is wider than in any of the Baltic States and four times as much as that in Turkey.

In the European Union’s newest and poorest member state, an unconventional politician using the phrase, “Bulgaria, Yes we can!,” is front-runner to a crucial national election. Dow Jones Newswires’ Joe Parkison reports on the campaign of Boyko Borrisov.

Government data released Thursday showed the budget surplus — required to support a currency board that pegs Bulgaria’s currency, the lev, to the euro — has declined 83% in the first five months of the year as tax receipts fell while public spending rose 24%. “Once my government starts work and the budget is updated we’ll see a large deficit, which will then make it necessary to start talks with the IMF,” said Mr. Borisov.

A former interior ministry official and national karate-team coach, the 50-year-old Mr. Borisov also once ran a private security firm, in a country racked by mafia assassinations. He has made his reputation as mayor of Sofia with a crackdown on crime.

A recent Sova Harris poll showed Mr. Borisov’s GERB, or Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, party running nine percentage points ahead of the governing Socialist Party of Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev. GERB also beat the government in European parliament elections last month.

From the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, the once fast-growing, ex-communist economies lately have been hammered by collapsing demand and vanishing foreign investment flows.

Mr. Borisov’s relative inexperience in government has some analysts worried. Such fears are compounded by the likelihood that whoever wins Sunday’s vote will have to form a coalition government, an outcome that could paralyze decision making and increase civil unrest, which already has been seen in cities across Bulgaria.

Write to Joe Parkinson at

Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A8

4 Responses to “As Bulgaria Struggles, Socialists Face Threat”

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  3. Kylie Batt says:

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    Веб-программист, ведущий веб-программист Using the slogan “Bulgaria, yes we can!,” Sofia Mayor Boiko Borisov, head of the […….

  4. Kylie Batt says:

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