Bulgaria votes for return of the king

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The former king of Bulgaria was yesterday preparing for a return to power ­ though not to the throne ­ in the country's democratic elections.

Bulgaria's Prime Minister, Ivan Kostov, conceded last night that he had suffered a "heavy election defeat" at the hands of a party led by Simeon II, who was deposed by Communists in 1946.

Preliminary results indicated a big margin of victory with the former king's party winning 46 per cent of the vote. The ex-monarch entered politics only in April, but his party, the National Movement for Simeon II, has taken Bulgaria by storm.

The party openly campaigns with him as a cult figure. Whether Simeon II will become Prime Minister or remain in the background is not yet clear. He has already indicated he is prepared to work with other parties in coalition.

"After today, Bulgaria is different," Simeon told a news conference last night.