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Thursday, 3 May, 2001, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Bulgarian ex-king in the running
Former King Simeon II
Ex-king Simeon has leaped over legal hurdles
The Bulgarian electoral commission has - on the last day of registration - withdrawn its objections to a political coalition supporting the country's former King Simeon taking part in next month's parliamentary elections.

The move comes amid signs that the movement enjoys strong support.

On Saturday the Supreme Court had ruled that the so-called National Movement Simeon II violated the law on nine counts, chiefly by allowing the ex-king too much control over the choice of candidates and policies.

But a day later ex-King Simeon said he had struck a deal with two small registered parties - the Party of Bulgarian Women and the Movement for National Revival - which would overcome the court's objections.

Strong support

The formal head of the movement will now be a little-known politician, Vessela Draganova.

Latest poll
Simeon II Movement - 42%
Centre-right coalition - 16.5%
Socialist coalition - 15%
Survey by Sova-Harris, end of April
Opinion polls suggest the movement is set to capitalise on Bulgarians' disillusionment with post-communist politics and stands a good chance of winning the election.

A poll published on Thursday in the Sega newspaper suggests that if parliamentary elections were held now, 43.2% of the voters would back the National Movement for Simeon II, compared to 16.5% for the now ruling centre-right UDF coalition and 15% for a leftist coalition led by the opposition Socialists.

The survey was carried out by Sova-Haris polling agency on 25 and 26 April, in towns with a population of more than 20,000 people.

The former monarch, who is 63, was exiled from Bulgaria at the age of nine after the country was occupied by the Soviet Red Army, and has lived most of his life in Spain.

Royal welcome

The ex-king, now a Madrid-based businessman, was welcomed by hundreds of thousands of supporters when he made his first return to the country for 50 years in 1996.

He said his new party would fight on a platform of opposition to poverty and corruption.

The June election had been expected to be a close-run contest between the ruling reformists and the opposition socialists, who are mainly former communists.

Earlier this year, the constitutional court banned the ex-king from contesting presidential elections as he had not lived in Bulgaria for long enough, leaving him legislative polls as the only alternative.

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See also:

04 Apr 01 | Europe
Ex-king to unveil political plans
15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bulgaria
15 Jan 01 | Europe
Timeline: Bulgaria
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