Incumbent Georgi Parvanov has won the first round of a presidential election in Bulgaria. He took more than 64 percent of the vote according to exit polls but low turnout means there will be a run-off next week.
A former Socialist leader, Parvanov has gained popularity by securing NATO and EU membership and is widely seen as the architect of the coalition which has ruled Bulgaria since a divisive election last year.
Critics say he hasn’t done enough to fight corruption and organised crime in Bulgaria, or to raise living standards in what will be the European bloc’s poorest member when it joins on 1 January.
Parvanov will face his main rival Volen Siderov, a nationalist whose xenophobic Attack party opposes EU adhesion, in the second round.
A former journalist, Siderov has tapped into public discontent, lashing out at Bulgaria’s minorities and vowing to revert NATO membership.