BULGARIA faces a second round of presidential elections next weekend following Zhelyu Zhelev's failure to win a clear majority over ex-communist and independent rivals in the first round.
Preliminary results showed Mr. Zhelev, onetime dissident and former leader of the anticommunist Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) now governing, received 45 percent of the Sunday vote, short of an outright majority. His main rival, Velko Valkanov, backed by the ex-communist Socialist Party, got 30 percent; and independent Georgy Petrushev, 17 percent.
While diplomats predicted Zhelev could have a tough fight on his hands if supporters of the other 18 candidates rallied behind Mr. Valkanov, they believed the president would prevail.
"Next Sunday Zhelev will get most of Petrushev's votes," a Western diplomat said. Petrushev's surprisingly strong showing was attributed mainly to the high profile of his running mate Petar Beron, a leading ex-dissident and the man who succeeded Zhelev as leader of the UDF when it was the main opposition.
"The Petrushev-Beron pairing split the noncommunist vote because Beron's image is still strong," a UDF spokesman said.