By Ivo Indzhev and Don Hill
Sofia, 5 May 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The troubled Bulgarian Socialist Party yesterday reelected its moderate incumbent leader, Georgy Parvanov, by 364 out of a possible 693 votes, better than 55 percent. Number two candidate, Krasimir Premyanov, drew 129 votes.
The BSP held its party Congress Friday through today.
The BSP, former governing party, went down to defeat by the Union of Democratic Forces in parliamentary elections last year. Nicoila Koichev, leader of the BSP's Sofia branch, said the party has lost 42,000 members in the last four years.
When the congress opened Friday in Sofia, Parvanov issued an appeal to his party, made up of former communists, to form a coalition with other leftist groups. He said the party was isolated and in crisis.
He also attacked the country's pro-Western government and its program of free-market reforms and fiscal austerity.
Despite Parvenov's victory, challenges from followers -- including Premyanov -- of former prime minister and party leader, Zhan Videnov, dominated the congress's proceedings. The result was watered-down self criticism and only limited breaks with former communist positions.
Parvenov received an endorsement of sorts yesterday from incumbent Prime Minister Ivan Kostov, leader of the anticommunist Union of Democratic Forces. Kostov said, as he has previously, that he would prefer Parvanov as opposition leader. A victory by Videnov's supporters would result in total isolation for the BSP, Kostov said.