Bulgarian President Radev wins second term on anti-corruption ticket

Winning candidate took two thirds of ballots in run-off vote

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev won a second term in office by a wide margin on Sunday as voters backed his strong anti-corruption message, exit polls showed.

Mr Radev, 58, defeated his challenger Anastas Gerdzhikov, also 58, winning 66 per cent to 32 per cent in the presidential run-off after nearly winning outright in the first round on November 14.

There has been widespread discontent against high-level corruption, which ended the decade-long rule of former prime minister Boyko Borissov in April and led a new anti-corruption party to victory in last week's parliamentary elections.

"An unprecedented political month with two types of elections ended that clearly highlighted the desire of the people for change, to break with corruption, robbery and unlawfulness and remove the mafia from power," a jubilant Mr Radev said after the vote.

The presidential post is largely ceremonial but provides a powerful platform to influence public opinion.

The president comes to prominence in times of political crisis, when the head of state can appoint interim cabinets.

Mr Radev, a former air force commander, gained popularity for his open support of huge anti-corruption protests against Mr Borissov in 2020.

He appointed interim governments that brought to light murky public procurement deals of Mr Borissov's last centre-right cabinet. Mr Borissov has denied any wrongdoing.

"Radev's win reconfirms the desire for change in Bulgaria. His re-election will facilitate the formation of a coalition government," said Daniel Smilov, a political analyst with the Centre for Liberal Strategies.

Mr Gerdzhikov, the Sofia University rector backed by Mr Borissov's Gerb party, conceded defeat and expressed regret for failing to convince Bulgarians that he could unite the nation.

Two Harvard-educated entrepreneurs Mr Radev appointed in May as interim ministers have since set up the We Continue the Change party (PP), which won Bulgaria's third national election this year on November 14, pledging "zero corruption".

Mr Radev is supported by Mr Borissov's political opponents − PP, the Socialists and the anti-elite ITN party which, along with another anti-corruption faction, are holding talks to form a coalition government.

In his first words after the vote, Mr Radev addressed the parties, urging them to forge a ruling government and start judicial reforms, battle the coronavirus pandemic and take measures to protect the vulnerable from high energy costs.

His second five-year term will start on January 22.

Updated: November 22nd 2021, 2:05 AM