Ex-communists head for defeat in Bulgaria and Romania lose in Bulgaria and Romania

Voters in Bulgaria and Romania went to the polls yesterday in presidential and parliamentary elections that seemed certain to result in setbacks for both countries' ruling former communists.

Early projections in Bulgaria indicated that Petar Stoyanov, the staunchly anti-communist presidential candidate of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), had defeated his former communist rival Ivan Marazov, by more than 20 per cent.

In Romania, where polling stations remained open later, the ruling Party of Social Democracy (PDSR) - the successor to the Communist Party - was expected to be defeated by the opposition Democratic Convention, heralding the first transfer of political power since the 1989 overthrow and execution of the country's former communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

In a parallel vote for the presidency, Ion Iliescu, the incumbent, was not expected to win an outright victory against his main rival, Emil Constantinescu of the Democratic Convention, thereby having to face him again in a second round run-off in two weeks' time.

Both Bulgaria and Romania have lagged behind the central European countries of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, in economic reforms since 1989 and neither are given much chance of being among the first former Warsaw Pact countries expected to join Nato and the European Union around the turn of the century.

Bulgaria has gone through a severe economic crisis this year, with the value of the national currency, the lev, plummeting. Much of the blame has been laid on the ruling socialists, who are likely to face pressure from Mr Stoyanov to call early parliamentary elections.

In Romania there is anger over the slow pace of reform and continuing widespread corruption. With average monthly wages still below US$100 (pounds 60), many Romanians feel they have yet to enjoy the fruits of freedom.

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