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Bulgarian PM to Quit as Opposition Candidate Nears Presidential Win

FILE - Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov (R) arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 29, 2016. Borisov announced his resignation Sunday after exit polls showed a pro-Russia candidate leading in the race for president.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov announced his resignation Sunday, as exit polls in the country's presidential runoff election showed his nominee losing badly to a pro-Russia candidate backed by the socialist opposition.

Borisov's announcement came in Sofia, as exit polls showed Gen. Rumen Radev, a political novice, winning about 58 percent of Sunday's vote. Borisov's hand-picked nominee, Tsetska Tsacheva, was holding about 36 percent.

Official results were expected late Sunday or early Monday.

Analysts have 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 has been bolstered by Radev's campaign support for the lifting of Western sanctions against Russia for Moscow's 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and its role in the pro-Russia separatist rebellion in the country’s east.

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