Newcomer to politics is Bulgaria’s next president, say polls

Ruman Radev’s expected victory heralds closer ties to Russia and months of instability

Rumen Radev casts his vote in the second round of presidential elections in Bulgaria, at a polling station in Sofia.  Photograph: EPA/VASSIL DONEV

Rumen Radev casts his vote in the second round of presidential elections in Bulgaria, at a polling station in Sofia. Photograph: EPA/VASSIL DONEV

 

Bulgarian socialist ally Rumen Radev, a Russia-friendly newcomer to politics, won yesterday’s presidential election by a large margin, exit polls showed, possibly paving the way for months of political instability in the small Black Sea state.

A former air force commander, Radev campaigned on strong anti-migrant rhetoric and an argument that it was in the country’s interest to find a balance between the requirements of its EU membership and better ties with Russia.

Radev, 53, backed by the opposition Socialists, won 58.1-58.5 per cent of the vote, compared with 35.3-35.7 per cent for Tsetska Tsacheva, the 58-year-old candidate of the ruling centre-right GERB party, the polls showed.

The general’s strong showing could undermine the minority government of Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, who has signalled he may resign if Radev wins the election.

If he doesn’t, opposition groupings could call for a parliamentary no-confidence vote in his cabinet.

“The main conclusion is that hope and desire for change won over fear, which both Borisov and GERB tried to propagate,” said Zhelyo Boichev, a senior Socialist party politician. Radev has benefited from discontent with the government over his perceived failure to make significant progress in rooting out corruption, as well as slow public-sector reforms. – (Reuters)