Tired of rampant transplants, Bulgarians are voting in the presidential election | The mighty 790 KFGO

By Tsvetelia Tsolova

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgarians will vote in a runoff election on Sunday for the country’s next president.

Incumbent President Rumen Radev, 58, a proponent of changes aimed at clearing Bulgaria‘s image as the most corrupt EU member state, appears ready for a new five-year term after winning 49.5% of the vote in the first ballot on November 14 would have.

He competes with the rector of Sofia University, Anastas Gerdzhikov, 58, who received 22.8% of the vote last week and is supported by the country’s pre-eminent politician of the past decade, ex-prime minister Boyko Borissov, who was ousted in April.

The post of president is largely ceremonial, but becomes known in times of political crisis when the head of state can appoint interim cabinets. The presidency also gives a high platform to influence public opinion.

Radev, a former Air Force commander, has surged in popularity for openly supporting massive anti-transplant protests against Borissov in 2020 and appointing interim cabinets that unearthed murky public contracts of his last center-right cabinet. Borissov has denied any wrongdoing.

A new anti-graft party, We Continue The Change (PP), formed by two Harvard-trained entrepreneurs whom Radev appointed interim ministers in May, won the general election last week.

Radew is supported by Borisov’s political opponents – the PP, the socialists and the anti-elite party ITN, who are holding talks with another anti-graft faction to form a government.

“Radev is a front runner, but a lot will depend on whether his supporters actually vote,” said political scientist Daniel Smilov from the Center for Liberal Strategies in Sofia.

Gerdzhikov, a distinguished professor of ancient and medieval literature, has accused Radev of pitting Bulgarians against each other and promised to unite the nation hit by COVID-related death rates, which are among the highest in the EU, and rising energy costs.

A strong supporter of NATO member Bulgaria’s western alliances, Gerdzhikov has been committed to improving business opportunities and supporting judicial reforms to improve the rule of law in the country of 7 million people.

Radev, who campaigned for the lifting of Western sanctions against Russia in 2016, said Bulgaria must maintain pragmatic relations with Moscow and should not consider it an enemy, not least because of its close historical and cultural ties.

His remarks that the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014, is “currently Russian” sparked protests in Kiev.

Voting starts at 7:00 a.m. (0500 GMT) and ends at 8:00 p.m. (1800 GMT). The elected president will take office next January.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Clelia Oziel)

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