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Wednesday, 14 November, 2001, 20:25 GMT
Socialist leads in Bulgarian elections
Petar Stoyanov
President Stoyanov is having a harder time than expected
The Bulgarian authorities have published the official results of the first round of voting in the presidential elections, which took place last Sunday.

The results by the Central Electoral Commission confirm that the incumbent President, Petar Stoyanov, was narrowly beaten by the Socialist candidate, Georgi Parvanov.

Socialist candidate Georgi Parvanov
Georgi Parvanov's success surprised many in Bulgaria

Mr Parvanov received just over 36% of the vote, while Mr Stoyanov had almost 35%.

The two man will now face each other in a run-off on 18 November, because no candidate secured the required 50% the eligible votes.

Turnout at the elections was the lowest since the fall of communism a decade ago, with only 41% of voters taking part.

Analysts say the voters of Bulgaria have expressed their disillusion with their political leaders by either staying away from the polls altogether or registering a protest vote.

Bulgarian experts had predicted that President Stoyanov would easily win the first round, as he was showing almost 50% approval in pre-election polls.

A voter in front of election poster in Sofia
Many voters did not bother to turn up

Mr Parvanov was not even expecting to be the president's closest rival, as polls had predicted former Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev would be the nearest challenger.

"Those elections showed that people want change, they want a new president," Mr Parvanov told a news conference, after hearing that he had reached the run-off.

"People are demotivated because every day their lives are getting worse and worse," he added.

Royal factor

The post of president in Bulgaria is largely ceremonial, but is important for the country's international image.

The bespectacled, 49-year-old Mr Stoyanov had remained reasonably popular despite the waning fortunes of his former party, the Union of Democratic Forces.

The former King Simeon II, now Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg
Royal PM backs Petar Stoyanov

It lost power in parliamentary elections in June to the movement named after the former King, Simeon II, who is now Bulgarian prime minister.

Mr Stoyanov, who is running as independent candidate, enjoys the backing of both the prime minister and the UDF.

"President Petar Stoyanov has been and will be a guarantor for the achievement of national ideals," the prime minister told the Associated Press news agency.

But the junior coalition partner, the Movement for Freedoms and Rights, said it would back the 44-year-old Mr Parvanov.

Bulgarian commentators say Mr Stoyanov's popularity has been dented by a heated election campaign, with all six candidates becoming increasingly engaged in mudslinging.

The two contenders for the post agreed on major issues, including the country's determination to join both the European Union and Nato in the coming years.

The EU has praised Bulgaria for recent reforms but criticised for high levels of corruption.

See also:

12 Nov 01 | Europe
Bulgaria faces election run-off
18 Jun 01 | Europe
East European royalty in exile
18 Jun 01 | Europe
Simeon's recipe for change
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