EU member Bulgaria headed into fresh political turbulence yesterday after a former air force commander seen as more sympathetic to Russia triumphed in the presidential elections, prompting Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to quit.
In his victory speech, Rumen Radev reiterated his opposition to EU sanctions on Russia and praised new US president-elect Donald Trump for seeking more dialogue with President Vladimir Putin.
“This gives a lot of hope for reducing [the risk] of confrontation, particularly in Syria” where Russia and the US are backing opposite sides in a bloody civil war, he said.
He won 59.4% of the vote, well ahead of the more Western-leaning Tsetska Tsacheva, Borisov’s uninspiring hand-picked candidate,who garnered just 36.2%, near-complete official results showed yesterday.
The outcome was mirrored in Moldova, a small ex-communist nation wedged between Ukraine and Romania, where the pro-Russian Igor Dodon beat his pro-European rival Maia Sandu to the presidency.
“The results clearly show that the ruling coalition no longer holds the majority,” Borisov said as he threw in the towel.
“I apologise to those who supported us. I thought I was doing the right thing . . . If Bulgarians want a political crisis then they shall have one,” he said.
Bulgaria is now set for months of political inertia.
An interim government will govern until fresh elections, which are not expected until March at the earliest and could well be inconclusive.
Radev, 53, due to take office on January22, has no political experience and was little known before being backed by the opposition Socialists to run for president.
Like other anti-establishment politicians around Europe, he struck a chord with voters by attacking the status quo and stressing issues like national security and immigration.
Experts also saw his victory as a protest vote at Borisov’s failure to improve the lot of ordinary Bulgarians, whose average monthly wage is just ß480 (R7 420), and to tackle rampant corruption.