On November 13th, Bulgarians elected their fifth president since the 1990. Rumen Radev, a retired Airforce general, won nearly 60% of the vote compared to 36% of his opponent of the ruling party GERB. Radev run as an independent, but was in fact a candidate of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party. Radev won the second round with votes across the political spectrum – primarily leftists and nationalists, joined by the main Turkish minority party, and many center-right voters who deemed him the better choice.
The international press noticed the elections mostly in the context of victories of perceived pro-Russian candidates, including in nearby Moldova. But in Bulgaria, the reality is more complicated and the presidential elections were accompanied by two major other events: a referendum that may change substantially the election system as well as resignation of the government with an ensuing political crisis.
The president has limited powers in Bulgaria, yet the direct vote, the introduced now mandatory voting and other factors attracted substantial turnout by the citizens and made them very contested. The institution has competencies in foreign affairs, veto power, appointment of senior officials in the judiciary, security and diplomatic services, but above all can use the position to shape the agenda in the country. At some point the campaign turned into confidence vote of the government and the ruling GERB party as well as became the focal point of hopes and resentment not directly linked to the position.
Full text of the policy bierf "Bulgaria’s Presidential Elections 2016: Testing Times Ahead with a Referendum and Government Resignation" is available here.