SPECIAL REPORT

Bulgaria, Moldova elect pro-Russia leaders

SOFIA (Bulgaria) • A pro-Russia former air force commander with no previous political experience has won a run-off election to become Bulgaria's new president.

The outcome is further evidence of a rising tide of authoritarian populism in many countries.

The repudiation of Bulgaria's centre-right government yesterday led Prime Minister Boiko Borisov to announce that his government would resign. Early parliamentary elections are now expected.

The winner, Mr Rumen Radev, 53, an independent running under the Socialist banner, campaigned on an anti-immigrant platform and often expressed admiration for President Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Mr Radev took 59 per cent of the vote in early results, compared with 36 per cent for Ms Tsetska Tsacheva, 58, the Speaker of Bulgaria's National Assembly and the candidate of Mr Borisov's party.

The role of Bulgaria's president is largely ceremonial but he is a respected figure and commander-in- chief of the armed forces.

"General Radev's victory represents the unfolding of a pro-Russian scenario in Bulgaria so that the country supports Russian interests in the EU and Nato," said Bulgarian political expert Antoniy Galabov.

In his victory speech, Mr Radev reiterated his support for scrapping European Union sanctions on Russia over Ukraine and he also praised US President-elect Donald Trump for "seeking more dialogue" with Mr Putin.

Meanwhile, another pro-Russia politician has emerged the winner of Moldova's presidential election run-off, also held on Sunday.

Mr Igor Dodon said yesterday he would push for early parliamentary elections next year to sweep out a government that favours closer ties with the EU.

Mr Dodon's victory over Ms Maia Sandu, a pro-West former World Bank official, has put a Moscow- leaning socialist back in the Moldovan presidency for the first time since 2009.

Wedged between Ukraine and Romania, the tiny nation of 3.5 million people is caught in a political tug-of-war between Russia and the West. Mr Dodon - who served as economy minister under a communist government between 2006 and 2009 - is calling for deeper ties and boosting trade with Moscow. His Socialist party is in favour of joining a Eurasian economic union dominated by Russia.

NYTIMES, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2016, with the headline 'Bulgaria, Moldova elect pro-Russia leaders'. Print Edition | Subscribe