With most votes counted, Petar Stoyanov, the liberal pro-market, pro- West candidate of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), had captured nearly 44 per cent of the vote, well ahead of his socialist rival, Ivan Marazov, on just 27 per cent. As such, he seemed well placed to win an outright majority in a run-off vote to be held next Sunday.
Although the post of president in Bulgaria is largely ceremonial, Sunday's vote was widely interpreted as a damning indictment of the socialist government, whose go-slow policy on economic reform has plunged the country into its most severe economic crisis since the collapse of communism in 1989.
With inflation set to top 200 per cent this year, and fuel and wheat supplies running low, voters sent a clear message that it was time for change.
Mr Stoyanov's election is likely to lead to strained relations with the socialist-led government and could lead to a paralysis in decision-making.Reuse content