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Bulgaria PM quits after his presidential nominee loses vote
[SOFIA] Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov announced his resignation Sunday after his presidential nominee suffered a crushing defeat in a run-off at the hands of a Moscow-friendly general backed by the Socialist opposition.
"I will hand in my resignation tomorrow or the day after... The results clearly show that the ruling coalition no longer holds the majority," the centre-right premier told reporters on Sunday evening.
The announcement is likely to trigger early elections by next spring and risks plunging Bulgaria into renewed political turmoil just two years after Mr Borisov took office for the second time.
It came shortly after projections showed that ex-airforce chief and political novice Rumen Radev had swept close to 60 per cent of ballots, while ex-parliament speaker Tsetska Tsacheva obtained just over 35 per cent.
Observers say the surprise win could tilt ex-communist Bulgaria, which has long walked a tightrope between Moscow and Brussels, towards Russia's orbit - a trend seen across eastern and central Europe amid rising euroscepticism.
Nearby Moldova also looked set to elect a pro-Russian president on Sunday.
"It's a victory for all Bulgarian people. Democracy has beaten apathy and fear today," Mr Radev told public broadcaster BNT on Sunday evening.
Mr Radev's clear support for the lifting of EU sanctions on Russia over Ukraine and ambivalent statements about the EU and Nato have prompted analysts to speculate that he could pursue closer ties with Moscow.
"I am convinced that the sanctions do not help but only harm... Russia and the EU countries are equally hurt," the jet fighter pilot said during the campaign.
The straight-laced Ms Tsacheva meanwhile has failed to sway disgruntled voters seeking to punish the government over its perceived failure to tackle rampant corruption and poverty in the European Union's poorest member state.
The Bulgarian president's role is largely ceremonial but the incumbent is nonetheless a respected figure and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Mr Borisov appears to have badly miscalculated in nominating Ms Tsacheva, analysts say.
"His threat to step down has mobilised his opponents more than supporters," Zhivko Georgiev of the Gallup Institute told AFP.