Following termination of the crucial round of Bulgaria’s presidential election, Rumen Radev has come out victorious, exit polls by Alpha Research and Gallup International show.
The 53-year-old former Bulgarian air force commander, who is backed by the opposition Socialists, won 58.1-58.5 percent of the votes on Sunday.
A former NATO fighter pilot, Radev has pledged to maintain Bulgaria’s membership in NATO but has also said that “being pro-European does not mean being anti-Russian.”
The other contender in the election, Tsetska Tsacheva, 58, won 35.3-35.7 percent of the votes. Tsacheva was the candidate of the ruling center-right GERB party.
In the first round of the election on November 6, pollsters were surprised by Radev’s stunning win of only over 25 percent of the votes compared with Tsacheva’s nearly 22 percent.
With Radev’s victory, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has resigned after Rumen Radev won.
Before the prime minister was re-elected, Bulgaria witnessed mass protests.
Graft and poverty remain rife in the country despite reforms promised by the center-right government. Public anger has also grown due to the fact that thousands of refugees are currently stranded in Bulgaria.
Bulgaria joined the European Union a decade ago. It is the most impoverished member of the 28-nation bloc. The election of Radev is seen as a blow to Bulgaria’s Western allies.
Radev, 53, entered Bulgarian politics on a wave of discontent with the ruling centre-right’s progress in combating corruption, disappointment with the European Union and concerns among voters over alienating an increasingly assertive Russia.
Coupled with political instability, Bulgaria’s tilt toward Russia is a blow to the country’s western European allies and underscores Moscow’s growing influence in southeastern Europe.
Radev has called for an end to EU sanctions against Russia and said Sofia should be pragmatic in its approach to any international law violations by Moscow when it annexed Crimea.
“In his election campaign (Donald Trump), already elected, said clearly that he will work for a better dialogue with Russia. That gives us hope, a big hope, for a peaceful solution to the conflicts both in Syria and in Ukraine and for a decrease of the confrontation,” Radev said.
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