Poll: Bulgaria’s right-wing opposition wins vote

Bulgaria’s right-wing opposition party has won Sunday’s parliamentary election by a wide margin over the corruption-tainted governing Socialist coalition, an exit poll reported.

The Alpha Research poll showed that the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, or GERB, led by Sofia Mayor Boiko Borisov, has claimed 38.5 percent of the vote.

The survey placed the Socialists second with 18.4 percent of the vote, while their junior coalition partner, the mainly Turkish MRF, won 13.5 percent. It said the ultra-nationalist Attack Party would finish fourth with 9.2 percent, followed by the right-wing Blue Coalition with 7.5 percent.

Official results are expected Monday.

“This is a serious victory for the right-wing parties,” said Petar Moskov, spokesman for the Blue Coalition. “It is the big comeback of the rightist parties and a considerable punishing vote for the incumbent coalition.”

It was not immediately clear, however, if Borisov’s party would have enough support to win an outright majority. The Blue Coalition has said it would be open to joining a coalition led by Borisov’s party.

“I vote for an European Bulgaria, which has to prove that it is not the poorest and most corrupt country in Europe,” Borisov said Sunday after casting his ballot.

Some 53 percent of Bulgaria’s 6.8 million eligible voters cast ballots, according to exit polls.

Although Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev’s Socialist government was credited with securing EU membership in 2007, it has widely been blamed for failing to crack down on corruption and improve the quality of life for Bulgaria’s 7.6 million people.

Bulgaria is the poorest member of the 27-nation European Union, with an average salary of euro300 ($420) a month. At least 700,000 mostly young and well-educated Bulgarians have left the country over the last two decades for better job opportunities and living standards.

“I cast a vote aimed at a change in this country, because I want to stay here and work here, and not abroad,” said Petar Antonov, a 22-year-old economics student.

The EU froze millions in aid last year amid allegations of fraud tolerated by the Socialist-led coalition, which has itself been plagued by scandals. The ministries for corruption, agriculture and the environment also have been accused in corruption schemes, but only a few low-profile cases have been taken to court.

In contrast, Borisov’s party has pledged to jail corrupt officials and crime bosses.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were monitoring the vote and will release a report on Monday.

Allegations of vote-buying by the two main parties during last month’s European Parliament election prompted several investigations and 15 court cases, police said. Transparency International said 16.4 percent of Bulgaria’s votes for the EU assembly were suspect.

On Saturday, 50 reports of vote-buying ahead of Sunday’s vote were investigated with two leading to criminal prosecutions, police said.



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