Sofia, 29 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- A driver for Bulgarian presidential candidate George Ganchev was killed yesterday evening when his car crashed minutes after dropping Ganchev off at his Sofia home. Ganchev told RFE/RL today that he thinks the crash was a failed assassination attempt aimed at him.
Ganchev, the leader of his self-styled "Bulgarian Business Bloc," finished third in Sunday's presidential poll.
Ganchev said he thinks those responsible may be the same people behind the mafia-style shooting death of former Prime Minister Andrei Lukanov on October 2.
According to reports, the driver had just taken Ganchev to his home in the suburb of Vladaya and was returning to the city when the Mercedes Benz he was driving left the road and struck a telephone pole. The driver was killed instantly. Ganchev's National Security Service body guard was injured in the crash.
The driver has been identified only as "Metodi," a 42-year-old National Security Service employee who had worked for the agency for 13 years. Authorities investigating the crash have released no other details.
Meanwhile, Bulgarian Socialist prime minister Zhan Videnov said today that he would not step down despite his party's poor showing in the first round of the country's presidential elections on Sunday.
Videnov told a Sofia press conference however he was "very worried" about the poll results and appealed to voters for support in next Sunday's run-off. He said he did not rule out a special congress of the Socialist party once the election results had been analyzed.
The party's leadership met last night to discuss strategy for the run-off. The Bulgarian press reported today that five participants at the meeting called for Videnov's resignation, but the prime minister denied the reports.
After two years in office, Videnov's government is under fire both from the opposition and from dissidents within the Socialist Party for its management of the country's worst economic crisis.
With three-quarters of the ballot counted, the Central Electoral Commission today said opposition candidate Petar Stoyanov received 44.9 percent, against almost 27 percent for Socialist candidate Ivan Marazov. Bulgarian Business Bloc candidate George Ganchev was third with 21.86 percent.
The Socialists -- the former communists -- lost an estimated one million voters compared to December 1994 legislative elections when they won a parliamentary majority. Final election results are expected later today.
A group of election monitors from the United States says Sunday's election in Bulgaria was carried out "with remarkable professionalism."
In a preliminary report, the International Republican Institute of Washington said today that its delegation of observers was impressed with the conduct of sectional and regional election officials.
The U.S. observers noted that they found some of what they called irregularities in the election, but the observers said these amounted to minor infractions of electoral laws. The delegation said it was encouraged by the enthusiasm of Bulgarian citizens for democracy, especially in view of the difficult economic and political climate in which the election took place.