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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bulgaria Expected to Elect New Reformist Parliament

SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Bulgarians vote Saturday in elections expected to bring to power the former opposition Union of Democratic Forces whose protest campaign toppled the ex-communist Socialists in February.


The election campaign has been something of an anticlimax after the rallies which drew thousands of people every day at the beginning of the year.


Unlike Bulgaria's two previous parliamentary elections since the end of one-party rule, this time the question is not who will win, but by how large a majority.


"On Saturday, we must continue what we started in January. Then we were together, and now we'll be together again, with one common aim -- to save Bulgaria," UDF leader Ivan Kostov told a rally in the town of Plovdiv on Wednesday.


Kostov can also capitalize on the success of the interim Cabinet, which brought the country back from the brink of bankruptcy, negotiating a reform and funding accord with the International Monetary Fund, which has opened the door to credits from other lenders.


"Our election program is realistic," Kostov said. "It is an unique one as it has been already tested by the actions of the caretaker Cabinet in an extremely difficult situation.


"Europe and the world decided to invest billions of dollars in the new government of the country. For us, this is an investment of confidence which we are determined to maintain."


Opinion polls show the UDF winning up to 60 percent of votes and the Socialists around 20 percent. Three smaller coalitions are also expected to poll above the 4 percent minimum to enter parliament.


Popular interim Prime Minister Stefan Sofianski will return to his previous job as mayor of Sofia, and Kostov, an economist by training and former UDF finance minister, is expected to be prime minister. Several ministers from the interim Cabinet are likely to stay on.