Bulgaria sank deeper into political uncertainty after final election results published Wednesday showed that the Socialist party and potential partner MRF have failed to secure enough seats to form a government.
Both parties are now looking to the fiercely nationalist and unpredictable Ataka party for backing, raising the spectre of an unstable and short-lived government in the European Union's poorest member state.
Final results of Sunday's elections showed the outgoing GERB conservatives garnering 30.5 percent of the vote, followed by the Socialist BSP with 26.61 percent.
The Turkish minority MRF party took 11.29 percent and the ultranationalist Ataka had 7.30 percent.
Electoral commission spokesman Biser Troyanov announced late Wednesday that GERB obtained 97 seats and BSP 84. MRF meanwhile took 36 and Ataka 23.
Ousted premier Boyko Borisov's GERB party has kept mum about its plans, but it is isolated as all the other three parties have refused to join forces with it.
With a combined 120 seats, the Socialists and the MRF are meanwhile forced to seek Ataka's backing if they want to form a government of technocrats.
Analysts said any such consensus government would be short-lived. However, they also noted that there was no better option.
"There is no other solution than a government of experts based on a programme with clear priorities," said analyst Zhivko Gerogiev.
"The alternative is new elections which risk to repeat the result of Sunday's vote," he said.
"I urgently call for nationally responsible behaviour from politicians and the formation of a government," Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev said Wednesday, adding that he planned to convene parliament by end-May and hand the first mandate to form a government soon after that.
"Bulgaria does not need repeat elections now. This will be a prerequisite for further destabilisation," he added.
A wave of massive and sometimes violent anti-poverty and corruption street rallies -- the biggest spontaneous public unrest in 16 years -- swept Bulgaria last winter, forcing Borisov to throw in the towel on February 20.
A mere 51.33 percent of Bulgaria's 6.9 million eligible voters however cast ballots in Sunday's election after a campaign marred by allegations of vote-rigging.
On the eve of the vote, prosecutors discovered some 350,000 illegal ballot papers at a printing firm in the northwestern town of Kostinbrod.
Media reports linked the owner of the firm to GERB, prompting Socialist leader Sergey Stanishev to accuse the conservatives of planning "a total falsification of the election".
Bulgaria's chief prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov confirmed on Wednesday that the extra ballot papers were identical to real ballot papers and not refuse as the owner of the printer had claimed.
They were packed and ready to be sent to different constituencies, and were kept by the printer illegally and without the necessary security measures, Tsatsarov added.
Borisov on Wednesday challenged the prosecutors' move to unveil the scandal a day before the vote, saying it cost his party five to six percent in support.
But Tsatsarov hit back saying, "we just did our job".
"We have not linked the ballots to any party... I do not see why one political force should identify itself with them," he said.