Conservative leader pulls ahead in Bulgarian presidential ballot


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A centre-right candidate won the first round last night of a Bulgarian presidential election dominated by national problems of unemployment, chronic corruption and opposition to ethnic minorities.

Rosen Plevneliev, the ruling conservative GERB party's candidate, was set to oust a Socialist incumbent, Georgi Parvanov after the first round, following a campaign marred by protests and violence. A second round of voting is scheduled for 30 October. Mr Pleveneliev secured 40 per cent of the vote in the first round but needs more than 50 per cent to win outright.

Protests in major cities against Bulgaria's ethnic Roma minority and corruption have been widespread. Last week, a journalist's car was blown up.

Bulgaria rates as the European Union's poorest country. Although the job of President is largely ceremonial, Mr Pevneliev, left, has vowed to crack down on endemic problems of organised crime and corruption. He has also said he will improve transparency in the public sector.