January 27, 2017 / 10:36 AM / 2 years ago

Bulgaria's interim PM says priority is fair elections

Bulgaria's President Rumen Radev poses for a picture with the interim Prime Minister Ognyan Gerdzhikov during an official ceremony in Sofia, Bulgaria January 27, 2017. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

SOFIA (Reuters) - The interim government running Bulgaria until parliamentary elections in late March will make ensuring the ballot is free and fair its top priority, the new prime minister said on Friday.

Veteran centrist Ognyan Gerdzhikov, a former parliament speaker, was appointed by President Rumen Radev on Tuesday to manage the political transition up to the election following the resignation late last year of a coalition government led by the center-right GERB party.

“The main task of the interim government is to organize fair elections,” Gerdzhikov, a 70-year-old professor of civil and commercial law at Sofia University, told reporters.

The previous government revived Bulgaria’s small but open economy, cut unemployment and put public finances in the black, but its failure to tackle widespread corruption has frustrated voters.

“In the past decades we have witnessed many disgraceful practices such as vote buying... We will make everything possible to seriously reduce this if not completely eradicate it,” Gerdzhikov said.

He said he would also make “utmost efforts” to ensure state finances remained stable during his tenure.

Analysts say the election was again unlikely to produce a strong majority government able to implement the judicial reforms the country needs.

If elections were held today, five parties would enter parliament, according to a poll by Alpha Research published on Friday.

Some 32.6 percent would vote for GERB party, led by ex-Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, and 28.8 percent for the Socialist Party.

Reporting by Angel Krasimirov and Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by John Stonestreet

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