November 3, 2019 / 7:30 PM / 17 days ago

Bulgaria's ruling GERB party set to win Sofia mayoral election: exit poll

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s ruling centre-right GERB party kept control of the capital Sofia in Sunday’s mayoral election, exit polls showed, after a run-off vote that tested the party’s support after a string of corruption scandals.

GERB’s Yordanka Fandakova secured 51-53.5% of votes cast in Sunday’s ballot, according to exit polls by independent pollsters Alpha Research and Trend. That would be enough to give her a fourth term as mayor of the city, home to one in four Bulgarians.

Maya Manolova, an independent candidate backed by the opposition Socialists, had 40.6-42.8%, the exit poll showed.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s GERB party, which has been in power for most of the past 10 years, has seen its support decline in the wake of corruption scandals over the past year. The run-off vote was held after Fandakova failed to secure an outright victory in the first round last week.

In the first round of local elections nationwide last Sunday, GERB won most seats in local governments in many of the bigger cities, reaffirming its long-standing political dominance, although its support had dropped compared to four years ago.

On Sunday its candidates also won the run-offs in Bulgaria’s second and third largest cities of Plovdiv and Varna, according to exit polls.

To remain in power nationally, GERB, which advocates fiscal discipline, relies on a coalition with smaller nationalist parties.

Since coming to power in 2017, Borissov’s third cabinet has raised public pay pushing the average monthly wages in the European Union’s poorest member state by over 20% and cut dole queues. But many people in the ex-communist country of 7 million people remain frustrated with entrenched corruption, graft-prone judiciary and poor healthcare services.

A national election is scheduled for 2021.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova, editing by Susan Fenton

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