Bulgarian PM's party still leads polls despite protests

The right-wing party of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov is still likely to win snap elections in May, even after he resigned last month amid mass protests against poverty and corruption, polls showed Monday.

Borisov's GERB party would garner between 19.7 and 21.3 percent of likely votes, compared to between 18.6 and 20.4 percent for the opposition Socialists, two polls by the Mediana and Gallup institutes showed.

Both surveys were conducted in March, following Borisov's resignation on February 20 under massive street pressure in the poorest country of the European Union.

In an earlier Mediana survey conducted before the resignation, GERB had 19.3-percent support compared to 22.5 percent for the Socialists.

Gallup showed the two parties tied at 22 percent in February.

Mediana analyst Kolyo Kolev said Borisov's resignation was "a clever manoeuvre" that helped him shed responsibility for the snowballing public anger, instead of becoming a target.

"Left without a concrete focus, the discontent scattered in all directions, under the slogan 'Everyone is to blame'," Kolev wrote in the Trud newspaper on Monday.

GERB "paradoxically" even gained support, he added.

Both the Gallup and Mediana polls also showed the ultra-nationalist Ataka as one of the main beneficiaries from the four weeks of street rallies, with support up to 4.3-5.0 percent, enough to make it into the next parliament again.

Bulgaria will hold an early vote on May 12 but analysts say growing disillusionment with the whole political establishment is likely to return a fragmented parliament and make the formation of a new cabinet difficult, leading to further instability.

"If the protesters are not represented in the vote, the elections will result in an impasse," said Tsvetozar Tomov, an analyst with the Skala polling institute.

Gallup analyst Andrey Raychev meanwhile warned that: "The crisis has not reached its culmination yet."

The growing number of suicides and four cases of people setting themselves on fire in despair "illustrated the suffering of hundreds of thousands of socially excluded Bulgarians," he said.