Bulgarians will vote on Sunday to choose the country’s next president in a poll, tired of rampant corruption in the European Union’s poorest member state amid rising energy costs and high numbers of deaths from coronaviruses.
Outgoing President Rumen Radev, 58, a proponent of change to clean up Bulgaria’s image as the EU’s most corrupt member state, looks set for another 5-year term after winning 49.5% votes in the first round on November 14. Compete with Sofia University rector Anastas Gerdzhikov, 58, who won 22.8% of the vote last week and is backed by the country’s prominent politician of the past decade, the former prime minister Boyko Borissov, who was ousted from power in April.
The presidency also assigns a high forum to influence public opinion.
Radev, a former Air Force commander, has grown in popularity for openly supporting the massive anti-transplant protests against Borissov in 2020 and for appointing interim cabinets that exposed the seedy public procurement of his last center-right cabinet.
Borissov has denied any wrongdoing. We Continue The Change (PP) party, founded by two Harvar-trained businessmen Radev appointed interim ministers in May, won the general election last week.
Radev has the support of Borisov’s political opponents, the PP, the socialists and the anti-elite party ITN, who are holding talks with another anti-theft faction about the formation of a government.
“Radev is one of the pioneers, but a lot will depend on whether his supporters actually vote,” said political scientist Daniel Smilov from the Center for Liberal Strategies in Sofia.
A distinguished professor of ancient and medieval literature, has accused Radev of playing Bulgarians off against each other, swearing the University of Gerdzhikov is a staunch supporter of the Western alliances of NATO member and has been committed to improving business opportunities and supporting judicial reforms and improving the rule of law in the country of 7 million people.
Radev, who campaigned in 2016 to lift Western sanctions against Russia, said Bulgaria must maintain pragmatic ties with Moscow and must not view it as an enemy, especially due to close historical and cultural ties.
His comments that the Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Russia to Ukraine in 2014, was “currently Russian” sparked protests from Kiev.
Voting begins at 7:00 a.m. (05:00 GMT) and ends at 8:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. GMT). The president-elect will take office in January next year.