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Ex-Bodyguard's Opposition Seen Winning Bulgaria Poll

SOFIA (Reuters) -- Bulgaria's opposition center-right GERB party was set to win most seats in the July 5 parliamentary election on promises to clean up corruption and heal an economy hurt by the global crisis, exit polls showed.

Led by former bodyguard and now Sofia Mayor Boiko Borisov, GERB received 115-117 seats in the 240-strong chamber compared with 39-42 seats for the ruling Socialists, exit polls by Sova Harris and Alpha Research showed.

Bulgarians say they are angry with the current government for failing to end a climate of impunity for politicians and crime bosses that has turned the Balkan country into the black sheep of the European Union.

Last year, the ex-communist state of 7.6 million, which joined the EU in 2007 and is the bloc's poorest member, lost access to over half a billion euros ($700 million) in EU aid as punishment for graft.

Straight-talking, burly Borisov, nicknamed "Batman" after the fictional superhero due to his zeal for action, has won the hearts of many Bulgarians, tired of two decades of slow reforms.

"Looks like we will have a strong centre-right government," Tsvetan Tsvetanov, GERB chairman, told reporters.

A new government must move fast to avoid new EU sanctions on aid, badly needed to fund Bulgaria's cash-strapped economy, and to attract investors, many of whom fled this year.