- Title: Candidates vote in Bulgarian presidential run-off, pro-Russian favoured
- Date: 13th November 2016
- Summary: SOFIA, BULGARIA (NOVEMBER 13, 2016) (REUTERS) ***WARNING CONTAINS FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY*** OUTSIDE OF POLLING STATION AT SCHOOL / PEOPLE WALKING PEOPLE QUEUING TO VOTE INSIDE POLLING STATION VARIOUS OF VOTERS PUTTING BALLOT PAPERS IN CLEAR, PLASTIC BOX GROUP OF CAMERAMEN AND PHOTOGRAPHERS INSIDE POLLING STATION PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, RUMEN RADEV, BEING PHOTOGRAPHED AND FILMED PUTTING HIS BALLOT PAPER IN BOX (SOUNDBITE) (Bulgarian) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, RUMEN RADEV, SAYING: "Our campaign was ethical from the beginning to the end. Therefore the moral victory is with us, but we need a political victory as well and it depends on every single vote. There must be no complacency."
- Embargoed: 28th November 2016 12:47
- Keywords: Bulgaria presidential election run-off
- Location: SOFIA, BULGARIA
- City: SOFIA, BULGARIA
- Country: Bulgaria
- Topics: Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA00158A1OHZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Bulgarians have been voting on Sunday (November 13) in a run-off presidential election, with Russia-friendly candidate Rumen Radev, expected to win and possibly pave the way for months of political uncertainty.
A newcomer to politics, Radev campaigned on a strong anti-migrant rhetoric and an argument that it was in the country's national interest to find a balance between the requirements of its European Union membership and better ties with Russia.
Speaking after casting his vote in Sofia, Radev said: "Our campaign was ethical from the beginning to the end. Therefore the moral victory is with us, but we need a political victory as well and it depends on every single vote. There must be no complacency."
Sunday's contest for the largely ceremonial post that pits 53-year-old Radev against the ruling GERB party's candidate, parliament speaker Tsetska Tsacheva.
The latest opinion polls showed Radev, backed by the opposition Socialists, about 10 percentage points ahead of Tsacheva, 58, after his unexpected victory in last Sunday's first round ballot.
Radev has benefited from discontent with the centre-right government of Prime Minister Boiko Borisov over his perceived failure to make significant progress in rooting out corruption, as well as slow public sector reforms.
One Sofia resident, called Nikolova, said people wanted a change: "People are disappointed by incompetents, who have been sent for the job and do nothing."
Borisov has vowed to step down if Radev wins on Sunday, a move likely to swing the country back to political instability and prompt snap polls probably in the spring, which could further delay reforms and scare investors.
While most of the country's decisions are the responsibility of the government, the president, who leads the armed forces, can sway public opinion and has the power to send legislation back to parliament.
Radev's anti-migrant and pro-Russia rhetoric has resonated with a public disheartened with European Union membership, as the bloc focuses on fighting internal battles and dealing with Britain's decision to leave.
Radev is not advocating NATO member Bulgaria abandon its Western alliances, mindful of the financial impact of EU aid and the country's long history of divided loyalties.
But he has called for an end to EU sanctions against Russia and said Sofia should be pragmatic in its approach to any international law violations by Moscow when it annexed Crimea.
Although Bulgaria's economy is expected to grow at a relatively healthy rate of about 3.1-3.3 percent this year, having shaken off recession in the wake of the global financial crisis, it remains the EU's poorest member, with average wages about 470 euros per month.
Rampant graft in public administration is seen as a key factor slowing the small Black Sea state's progress in catching up with its wealthier EU peers.
Opinion polls published on Thursday showed Radev winning 49.6-51 percent of the runoff vote for the largely ceremonial post against parliament speaker Tsacheva's 39.1-40 percent. Because voting is compulsory in Bulgaria, voters can choose neither candidate.
Voting started at 7.00 am (0500 GMT) and polls close at 8.00 pm (1800 GMT).
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