Rumen Radev in early lead in Bulgaria presidential race

A supporter of the Bulgarian Socialist Party holds a picture of the former head of the Bulgarian air force, Rumen Radev, who is now the candidate of the opposition for president, in the town of Byala Slatina, November 2, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Bulgaria’s opposition candidate, Rumen Radev, has gained the lead in the Balkan country’s presidential election, according to early results.
Radev, 53, from the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), is ahead of his rival Tsetska Tsacheva, 58, from the ruling center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) Party, according to official early results published on Monday.
Radev is recognized in Bulgaria as a pro-Russia politician. A former air force chief, he is leading with 26.45 percent of the votes, compared to the 21.38 percent for Tsacheva, who is currently the speaker of the parliament, with 10.48 percent of the votes counted.
If neither of the two wins an overall majority in the vote, there will be a runoff on November 13.
The results indicate an embarrassing setback for Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
Borisov, who is the GERB’s leader, had said during a campaign rally that the vote would determine whether his party had the right in the upcoming years to rule over the nation.
Former head of the Bulgarian air force Rumen Radev, who is the candidate of the opposition Socialist Party, casts his vote at a polling station during the presidential election in Sofia, November 6, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Bulgaria, once a loyal Russian ally, had been tilting away from Moscow and closer to the West under the incumbent government. It became a NATO member in 2004.
This is while Bulgaria is almost entirely dependent on Russia for energy supplies, and many Bulgarians feel culturally attached to their Black Sea neighbor.
Analysts believe Russia and the West both have high levels of support among voters, however.
Moscow and Brussels are presumed to be watching closely to see who wins the presidential election.
Tensions have been high between Russia and the European Union (EU), particularly since conflicts began in Syria and Ukraine.