GERB Runner Elected Mayor of Bulgaria's Varna by Slim Margin

Ivan Portnih, candidate of Bulgaria’s formerly ruling center-right party GERB, has won the battle for mayor of the coastal city of Varna by a slim margin.

Sunday's run-off pitched Portnih, who garnered 51,41% of the votes, against Bulgarian Socialist Party backed vice-mayor Hristo Bozov, who came in second with 48,59%.

At the first round of the elections last Sunday, Bozov came in first with 30%, followed by Portnih with some 27%.

The first round was marked by record low voter turnout – only 25% or 74 000 people went to the polls on Sunday, June 30. In the run-off the turnout was only slightly higher - 26,36%.

Early March, fourth-term Varna mayor Kiril Yordanov resigned after weeks of street protests against social economic stagnation, and the influence of shady business group TIM over the city and region.

The Varna rallies triggered Bulgaria's January and February 2013 protests that led to the resignation of then-PM Boyko Borisov and his GERB Cabinet, and calling of early elections May 12.

They also tragically included a number of fatal self-immolations, many of them due to poverty and personal distress.

In Varna, young man Plamen Goranov, dubbed by some "Bulgaria's Jan Palach", perished after setting himself on flame as an act of protest against corruption in the city.

Adapted from Novinite