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Russia-Friendly Political Novice Elected Bulgaria's President

  • VOA News

Bulgarian Socialists Party candidate Rumen Radev gestures with an apple during a press conference after presidential elections in Sofia, Bulgaria, Nov. 13, 2016.

Bulgarian Socialists Party candidate Rumen Radev gestures with an apple during a press conference after presidential elections in Sofia, Bulgaria, Nov. 13, 2016.

Bulgaria's Socialist Party candidate has won the presidential election, leading to the resignation of the country's prime minister.

Former air force commander General Rumen Radev, a Russian-friendly political novice, won nearly 60 percent of the vote, according to nearly complete results released Monday. Tsetska Tsacheva, the candidate of the ruling center-right GERB party, fell far short in his attempt to become president.

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov congratulated Radev and announced his resignation, after what political analysts called a "catastrophic defeat," saying it was clear the ruling coalition had no majority and under the new situation could not make any reforms. Radev is to take office on January 22 for a five-year term. His first job will likely be to call early parliamentary elections next year because of Borisov’s resignation.

Analysts had speculated that a surprise Radev win could strengthen Russian influence in ex-communist Bulgaria, one of the poorest members of the 28-nation European Union. That speculation had been bolstered by Radev's campaign support for the lifting of Western sanctions against Russia for Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis of 2014.

Additionally, many of the country's 7.2 million residents maintain cultural ties to Moscow, which also supplies Bulgaria with much of its energy needs.

Prime Minister Borisov's center-right coalition has dominated Bulgaria's political landscape for much of the past decade, with Borisov first elected prime minister in 2009. But halfway into its current four-year term, the coalition government has faced months of anti-corruption protests, as well as pressure to speed up the pace of judicial reforms and anti-graft initiatives.

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