The ITN party lead by Bulgarian showman Slavi Trifonov, who has frequently made nationalist comments aimed at Macedonia, is the main winner of the general elections held there yesterday. Trifonov is projected to surpass the BSP socialist party to be second largest party in Bulgaria, behind the ruling right wing GERB party of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.

Trifonov and two other protest parties ate into the support for GERB and BSP, reducing their numbers in the Parliament, and making any future coalition making difficult. GERB is projected to lose as many as 30 seats in Parliament and be reduced to under 70 seats. BSP may see its group in Parliament almost halved, from 80 to under 50. Meanwhile, Trifonovs “Ima Takov Narod” party will win about 45 seats. The DPS party which mainly represents the Turkish minority, is set to win about 30 seats, similarly to the Democratic Bulgaria party borne out of the anti-Borisov protests that took place last year. The nationalist VMRO-BND party is on the verge of entering the Parliament, hovering at about 4 percent of the vote, and if it surpasses it in the final count, it will have about a dozen seats in Parliament.

In the Borisov Government, it was VMRO-BND that largely drove the nationalist posture toward Macedonia, which eventually lead to Bulgaria blocking Macedonia’s opening of EU accession talks. The party may lose much of its influence now that it is not enough to prop up Borisov in his next term and he is forced to turn to larger coalition partners, but it’s possible that Trifonov will play a similar role. In the past he has insisted that Macedonians are Bulgarians and echoed critical comments from Macedonia aimed at Bulgaria before his sizable audience to gin up outrage. He follows the position set by Borisov and VMRO-BND leader Krasimir Karakacanov that Macedonia will not be allowed to open EU accession talks until it accepts that the Macedonians are Bulgarians in origin.

In his first response after the elections, Borisov declared victory, but due to his greatly reduced majority, he called on the other parties to join him in a grand coalition that would focus on fighting the coronavirus epidemic. “I offer you peace, let’s put experts together and work with all our strength until December to beat the pandemic and lift ourselves up. This is my offer to all. Let’s select the best and get the job done. Unity is strength”, Borisov said.

Trifonov’s deputy party leader Tasko Jordanov said that the party will not enter into a coalition with any of the major parties – GERB, BSP, DPS or “Voyvoda Porkbelly” – a reference to Karakacanov. Officials of the Zaev regime made statements that they expect Bulgarian opposition to Macedonia’s EU accession talks to be toned down after the elections, but may be wishful thinking as all major Bulgarian parties have agreed to the veto and the likely future kingmaker Trifonov has even been ahead of the curve on pressuring Macedonia.