Socialists, Ruling Party to Face Off in Bulgarian Runoff

  • Opposition Socialists’ Radev, Gerb’s Tsacheva to vie Nov. 13
  • Premier Borissov may quit if ruling party candidate loses

General Rumen Radev, the Bulgarian Socialist Party’s candidate for president, won the most votes in Sunday’s first round, raising the risk of snap parliamentary elections should he beat the ruling party’s nominee in a runoff on Nov. 13.
Radev, 53, former chief of the Air Force, garnered 25.7 percent of votes in a field of 21 candidates, the Central Electoral Commission in Sofia said on its website after 95 percent of the ballots were counted. Radev will face the ruling Gerb party’s Parliament Speaker Tsetska Tsacheva, who took 22 percent. Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who formed a coalition after a snap vote in 2014 for a second term in office, threatened to step down if Tsacheva, 58, loses.

The election outcome “renews the specter of political instability, with potential negative effects on economic momentum and reform drive,” Ciprian Dascalu, ING’s chief economist for the Balkans, said in an e-mailed note on Monday. “The situation does weaken the Premier’s position as he might have to make some concessions to garner support for Tsacheva and to keep the ruling coalition intact in the coming months.”

The Black Sea nation, the poorest in the European Union by per-capita output, is working to boost growth, raise living standards closer to the bloc’s average and lock itself deeper into the union. A NATO member since 2004, Bulgaria is also seeking to balance its policy toward Russia, the source of most of its energy supplies, with the alliance’s concerns over an increasing risk of confrontation with President Vladimir Putin.

Yields, Russia

The yield on Bulgaria’s euro-denominated bonds maturing in September 2024 rose 4 basis points to 1.54 percent, the highest level in two months, at 5:04 p.m. in Sofia.

Both Radev and Tsacheva advocate easing EU and U.S. sanctions imposed against Russia over its seizure of Crimea and support of rebels in eastern Ukraine. They have campaigned to revise the penalties to appeal to those Bulgarians who value their country’s religious and historical links with Russia, Bulgaria’s Cold War-era ally. While the president’s powers are largely ceremonial, the incumbents have played a role in shaping public opinion. Winning the presidency requires a 50 percent majority vote.

’Red General’

Radev, who holds a degree from the Air Force War College in the U.S., and is dubbed by Gerb as the “red general,” countered his opponents’ accusations that he would swerve Bulgaria’s foreign policy closer to Russia.

“Bulgaria has a clear Euro-Atlantic orientation and I have never thought of reconsidering it,” Radev said in an interview with Bulgarian National Radio on Monday. “We should become a generator of solutions in these alliances, rather than being just a consumer of decisions. The fact that we are a NATO and an EU member doesn’t mean we should be enemies with Russia. We shouldn’t create our enemies, but look after our economic interests.”

Tsacheva pledged to push for constitutional changes and judicial reform after meeting with the Reformers’ Bloc, the government’s junior coalition partner, to seek their support in the runoff.

“I will do my best this week to become Bulgaria’s president and guarantee our country’s European and Euro-Atlantic future,” she told reporters.

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