Bulgarian President Rumen Radev’s mantra of strong anti-corruption message has aided his election into a second term in office by a wide margin, exit polls showed.
The 58-year-old defeated his challenger Anastas Gerdzhikov, also 58, winning 66 percent to 32 percent in the presidential run-off after nearly winning outright in the first round on November 14, according to exit polls that also registered a record low voter turnout.
It should be noted that the election came amid widespread discontent against high level graft that ended the decade-long rule of former premier Boyko Borissov in April and led a new anti-corruption party to victory in the recent parliamentary elections.
Speaking on his victory, a jubilant Radev said “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”.
It was gathered that Radev, a former air-force commander, gained popularity for his open support of massive anti-graft protests against Borissov in 2020 and for appointing interim governments that brought to light murky public procurement deals of Borissov’s last center-right cabinet. Borissov has denied any wrongdoing.
Daniel Smilov, political analyst with Centre for Liberal Strategies said “Radev’s win re-confirms the desire for change in Bulgaria. His re-election will facilitate the formation of a coalition government,”
Local reports have it that Gerdzhikov, the Sofia University rector backed by Borissov’s GERB party, conceded defeat and expressed regret for failing to convince Bulgarians he could unite the nation.
Addressed the parties, Radev urged them to forge a ruling government and kick-start judicial reforms, combat the coronavirus pandemic and take measures to protect the vulnerable from high energy costs. Radev’s second five-year term will start on January 22.