By Tsvetelia Tsolova
SOFIA (Reuters) - A new centrist political party won Bulgaria's parliamentary election, partial official results showed on Monday, boosting hopes for an end to months of political deadlock in the European Union's poorest member state.
The anti-graft We Continue The Change party (PP), launched only two months ago by two Harvard-educated entrepreneurs who served as interim ministers, won 25.5% of the vote, based on 93% of ballots counted from Sunday's election, Bulgaria's third this year.
After two previous elections in April and July produced an inconclusive outcome, Bulgarian voters are keen to see a new government formed quickly to tackle a dire COVID-19 situation, surging energy prices and widespread graft.
"I voted for what we are fighting for and hoping to happen - a more serious change in everything, so that we can have a better life here, at least for our children," Kostadin Manov, a 39-year-old father of two, said after casting his vote in Sofia.
"This corruption and all this theft should stop."
But the partial results show the next parliament will be even more fragmented than in April and July, with seven parties represented.
TOUGH COALITION TALKS
Voter turnout in Sunday's vote is estimated at about 40% - a historic low amid public disillusionment and apathy and also coronavirus infections that have left hospitals overwhelmed.
The centre-right GERB party of long-serving premier Boyko Borissov came in second with 22.2% of the vote. His decade-long rule ended with the April election amid public anger over his failure to crack down on corruption.
President Rumen Radev, a harsh critic of Borissov, won 49.4% of votes in a presidential election that also took place on Sunday and is tipped to win a second five-year term in the largely ceremonial post in a runoff set for Nov. 21.
Analysts said the new PP party looked better positioned to seal a coalition with the support of the Socialists, the anti-graft alliance Democratic Bulgaria and the ITN party of TV talk show host Slavi Trifonov.
However, tough coalition negotiations lie ahead before a workable government can be formed.
"Negotiations will likely be challenging... Nonetheless, the urgent need for a stable government will likely facilitate compromises on all sides, at least in the near term," said Andrius Tursa of consulting firm Teneo in a note.
PP leader Kiril Petkov, 41, promised on Sunday to be open to dialogue and compromise in coalition talks but said his party would not renege on pledges to overhaul the judiciary and clamp down on corruption.
"Bulgaria is headed onto a new path," said Petkov, who hopes to become prime minister and to have his PP co-founder, Assen Vassilev, as finance minister.
Final official results are expected on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Writing by Krisztina Than, Editing by Gareth Jones)