GERB Candidates Scoop Major Wins in Bulgaria's Local Vote Runoff
Mayor candidates endorsed by main ruling party GERB have won in at least seven regional centers in Bulgaria, according to first exit poll results in the run-off vote of local elections.
These include Plovdiv, Haskovo, Shumen, Vidin, Razgrad, Targovishte, Pernik, and Lovech.
"Of a total of 5181 municipal councilors, 1727 are of GERB," Tsvetan Tsvetanov, GERB Deputy Chair, former Interior Minister and unofficial "driving force" of local party structures, told journalists at a press conference.
Against this backdrop, the biggest opposition party, socialist BSP, has failed to win any of the regional centers where results have been declared so far, losing in all six of the bigger towns and cities where it was facing a runoff.
Results about more towns and cities are to be available later on Sunday, with half of all regional centers having held a second round of the mayoral vote.
In Haskovo, where the race was particularly contested, Dobri Belivanov, a candidate put forward by GERB, won overwhelmingly with 79% of the vote, with support for Georgi Ivanov (backed by right-wing RB, a junior coalition partner) only at 29.1%. Ivanov, who has had several consecutive terms in office, has described the run-up to the vote as "police bacchanalia".
Ognyan Tsenkov, backed by GERB, is tipped to win with 53.7% of votes, against Rositsa Kirova, supported by a local coalition (46.3%). Vidin and its adjacent areas are known as the EU's poorest region, with staggering levels of unemployment.
Shumen has also produced a clear winner according to first results of Alpha Research and Gallup pollsters, with Lyubomir Hristov (GERB) defeating Ivan Ivanov (socialist opposition BSP).
In Razgrad, Northeastern Bulgaria, partial counts suggest 56.32% of voters backed Valentin Vasilev, who was pitted against Dencho Boyadzhiev, the incumbent whose candidacy was raised by an initiative committee and endorsed by the socialist opposition.
A GERB candidate has also won the race in Targovishte, garnering 69.18% of the vote, with support for his opponent from the DPS, Emine Yakubova, at 30.82%.
In Lovech, north-central Bulgaria, GERB's Korneliya Marinova will be the new mayor, defeating long-serving incumbent Mincho Kazandzhiev. Media reports suggest the two got 52% and 48% of the vote, respectively.
Incumbent, socialist-backed Nikolay Ivanov lost in Vratsa (NW Bulgaria) to Kalin Kamenov (GERB) with the latter gaining 53.95%.
A long voting evening ended in Sliven, Southern Bulgaria, with the BSP's Kolyo Milev (44.11%) being outsted from the mayor's position by Stefan Radev (55.89%).
Pernik, once cosidered a "socialist" stronghold, will also be governed by GERB after its candidate, Vyara Tserovska, won over the BSP's Erik Vangelov.
In many of these (Vidin, Vratsa, Lovech, Pernik, Razgrad, Sliven, Targovishte, and Shumen), the BSP had held the mayoral seats since 2011.
The town of Pleven, in north-central Bulgaria, has however brought a major victory for RB, a junior coalition partner in the government, has garnered 59.3% against GERB's Dimitar Stoykov (40.7%). Spartanski was also backed by VMRO, one of the parties forming nationalist Patriotic Front coalition which backs the government.
It was the northeastern town of Dobrich where a second candidate endorsed by the Reformist Bloc was declared (albeit narrowly) a winner in the small hours on Monday. With 100% of voter protocols counted, Yordanov got 50.61% of the vote, while Detelina Nikolova, raised by GERB, was 283 votes behind, at 49.39%.
In Pazardzhik, a town in Southern Bulgaria, independent candidate Todor Popov has collected 55.4% of the vote against Nayden Shopov (GERB).
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