Elections come amid widespread dissatisfaction with high-level corruption that ended the decade-long rule of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in April.
Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev is on track for a comfortable re-election, according to exit polls for the second round of the country’s presidential election on Sunday.
Radev, 58, led his challenger Anastas Gerdzhikov, also 58, by 64 to 66 percent in the presidential run-off after winning almost straight in the first round on November 14, exit polls by Alpha Research and Gallup International showed amid ‘ a record low voter turnout.
The election follows widespread dissatisfaction against high-level corruption that ended the decade-long rule of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in April and led a new anti-corruption party to a victory in last week’s parliamentary elections.
The presidential post is largely ceremonial, but provides a powerful platform to influence public opinion.
The president emerges in times of political crisis, when the head of state can appoint interim cabinets.
Radev became popular for his open support of massive anti-vaccination protests against Borissov in 2020 and for the appointment of interim governments that brought to light obscure public procurement agreements of Borissov’s last center-right cabinet.
Borissov denied any wrongdoing.
Gerdzhikov, the rector of Sofia University backed by Borissov’s GERB party, accused Radev of pitting Bulgarians against each other. He promised to unite the nation, which has been hit by some of the worst coronavirus deaths in the European Union and rising energy costs.
Two Harvard-trained entrepreneurs who appointed Radev as interim ministers in May have since formed the We Continue The Change party (PP), which won Bulgaria’s third national election on November 14 this year and promised “zero corruption”.
Radev, a former NATO fighter pilot who spent some time studying at US Air War College in Alabama, has vowed to retain Bulgaria’s place in the Western alliance if re-elected.
But he also insisted on pragmatic ties with Russia and said sanctions against Moscow should be lifted.