By Mariya Cheresheva
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said his GERB party will quit the government if his party’s candidate in the presidential election loses the second round on November 13.
Borissov issued the threat after the first exit polls on Sunday night suggested that General Rumen Radev, the ex-air force chief nominated by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, came first in the first round of the election, ahead of Tsetska Tsacheva, the candidate of Borissov’s centre-right GERB party.
Turnout was estimated at over 52 per cent by polling agencies.
Voting continues outside Bulgaria, with media reports of long queues to cast ballots in the UK, Germany, Russia and other countries in Europe and around the world.
Different polling agencies meanwhile estimated Radev’s lead against Tsacheva at between 0.5 and 5 per cent.
Alpha Research said the Socialist-backed candidate won 24.6 per cent of the votes, as compared to 21.5 for GERB’s nominee.
Gallup International, another main polling agency in Bulgaria, gave Radev a bigger lead against Tsacheva – 24.9 per cent compared to 22.3 per cent.
“Today Bulgarians said ‘no’ to apathy and voted for change. Bulgarians have taken democracy in their own hands, because it belongs to them,” Radev said on Sunday evening.
He promised to take “the fight until the end” and called on all Bulgarians living in the country and abroad to support him in the second round of the presidential elections on November 13.
Experts see the risk of a political crisis if Borissov acts on his threats to pull his party out of government if Tsacheva does not win the presidential vote.
“If we lose the second round, we are going into early elections,” the Prime Minister said.
Tsacheva insisted that gap between her and Radev was minor and that the results could change by the end of the election.
The BSP refused to comment on the possible resignation of Borissov’s government but declared its readiness to run in early parliamentary elections.
The exit polls also showed most Bulgarian citizens supported the three questions put to them in a national referendum which took place together with presidential elections.
The introduction of majoritarian voting attracted the support of 79 per cent of voters, mandatory voting was backed by 70.6 per cent, while limiting the state subsidies for political parties was supported by 80 per cent of Bulgarians, Gallup International Bulgaria’s preliminary data showed.
Turnout in the referendum, aimed at “shaking up” the political system, was estimated at a little above 50 per cent, so it remains unclear whether the results crossed the threshold to be deemed mandatory.
Final results of the first round of the presidential elections are expected on Monday. Among the other candidates, the nationalist-backed candidate Krasimir Karakachanov was backed by over 14 per cent of Bulgarians, followed by businessman Veselin Mareshki with over 10 per cent.
Different polls placed two candidates in fifth place – Traicho Traikov, candidate of the right-wing Reformist Bloc and ex-prime minister Plamen Oresharski, who was supported by the ethnic-Turkish dominated party Movement for Rights and Freedoms.