FORMER dissident Zhelyu Zhelev won Bulgaria's first presidential election, ending the former Communist Party's hopes that it could cling to a slice of power.
Mr. Zhelev pledged to continue his reformist course after winning the Sunday election in the Balkan nation once mockingly called the Soviet Union's 16th republic.
"The most important task for Bulgaria is to carry out political and economic reform as soon as possible, and to attract large amounts of investment from abroad," Zhelev said after winning Bulgaria's first presidential vote.
But the incumbent president's margin of victory over challenger Velko Valkanov of the Bulgarian Socialist party - the renamed Communist Party - was only 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent. That margin was described as slim by diplomats and members of the ruling Union of Democratic Forces.