Bulgaria reelected Rumen Radev for a second five-year mandate as Head of State on Sunday. The incumbent convincingly won the second round of the presidential vote against GERB-backed candidate Prof Anastas Gerdjikov, with the Central Electoral Commission announcing that Mr Radev took 66.7 percent of the vote compared to 31.82 percent for Mr Gerdjikov with 99.9 percent of the votes now counted.
The second round of the election, however, attracted scant interest from the public, with only about 30-34 percent of voters heading to polling stations, according to preliminary estimates of three sociology agencies. This means that Mr Radev won the election with just over 1.5 million votes to Mr Gerdjikov's 733,000.
In comparison, the first round of the presidential vote also had a surprisingly weak turnout of 40.5 percent. Most Bulgarian voters, weary of an election-heavy 2021, declined to vote in the last election of the year.
"No right to make mistakes," Radev tells Parliament
In his victory speech on Sunday evening, Mr Radev said that the Bulgarian people have shown a "clear will to pursue change, to say no to corruption, appropriation of public funds and lawlessness, elimination of the mafia's grip over the state". He also warned the newly elected MPs that this time they have no right to make any mistakes, after the two parliaments formed this year failed to produce a working coalition and a cabinet.
"The public expects the creation of a clear political majority that will undertake immediate reforms in the judiciary, prevent a social and economic crisis in the winter months, provide for those in need, and take decisions that have been delayed," Mr Radev said, adding that the fight against the pandemic also remains a priority. "The new government should not back down from national positions, especially when Bulgarian identity and history and the rights of our compatriots abroad are at stake," the President concluded, referring to Sofia's position on N. Macedonia.
Gerdjikov wins Turkish vote
As expected, GERB's nominee, Sofia University rector Anastas Gerdjikov, received some support from the ethnic Turkish party MRF, but much less than he needed. Only about 20,000 voters in Turkey backed him in the run-off, compared to over 90,000 who went to vote for MRF's own candidate Mustafa Karadaya last Sunday. The only region in the country Mr Gerdjikov won is Kardzhali, which is traditionally dominated by MRF.
Overall, Mr Gerdjikov failed to convince voters of his independence from GERB, the largest party that backed his nomination. He vowed to return to his academic career and to Sofia University and would not pursue political endeavors in the future.
Mr Radev secured his second mandate with promises to continue undoing the capturing of the state apparatus by GERB and MRF in the past decade - a mission he seriously undertook only in the latter stage of his mandate. He also introduced the most popular and proactive caretaker cabinet in recent Bulgarian history, which also spawned the newest big political force in the country - We Continue the Change of ex-ministers Kiril Petkov and Assen Vassilev, who will now be the main player in the upcoming government negotiations after winning the Parliamentary vote last Sunday.