Wiretap scandal hits Bulgaria's ex-PM ahead of vote

A huge scandal about the alleged wiretapping of outgoing Bulgarian premier Boyko Borisov's political opponents is starting to hurt his re-election chances in May, analysts and opinion polls suggested Friday.

According to pollsters Mediana, Borisov's right-wing GERB party, although still in first place, has slipped from a score of 26.4 percent in early April to 23.3 percent last weekend.

"A third of GERB voters intend to withdraw their support," said Vassil Tonchev, head of the Sova-Harris institute, while Andrey Raychev of Gallup even went as far as to predict defeat for Borisov's party "following this scandal".

The opposition Socialists, the main victims of the alleged wiretapping, have failed to benefit, however, with their score falling too, although by less than GERB, from 23.7 percent to 21.4 percent, according to Mediana. The elections are expected to return a highly fragmented parliament.

Prosecutors opened a probe last month after an anonymous report said that a former president, a former finance minister, European Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, businesspeople and the heads of smaller parties had been bugged.

Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov has been forced to deny ordering the surveillance and the accusations come at an awkward time for him since he is Borisov's campaign manager for the elections.

On Tuesday four senior interior ministry officials including the head of the surveillance unit and two predecessors were indicted for allegedly facilitating unregulated wiretapping dating back to 2009.

On Thursday Miroslav Naydenov, agriculture minister in Borisov's administration -- which resigned on February 20 after large anti-poverty protests -- was ejected from GERB after saying that all members of the government felt they were under surveillance.

The use of surveillance techniques is however not that shocking to voters wearily used to such methods both during the communist era and in the two decades since in the European Union's poorest country.