SOFIA -- Exit polls in Bulgaria indicate that the ruling center-right GERB party will maintain its nationwide dominance but with less support than four years ago, following the October 27 municipal and mayoral elections.
In Sofia, the nation’s capital, GERB’s incumbent mayor Yordanka Fandakova is slated for a runoff for her fifth term against Maya Manolova, an independent backed by several opposition parties.
First round Sofia mayoral election projections by Gallup and Alpha Research foresee Fandakova winning around 35 percent of the vote with Manolova getting between 25 and 26 percent.
About 100,000 fewer voters cast their ballot for Fandakova than in the previous mayoral race.
Aside from Sofia, the main challengers -- the Socialists and a liberal pro-Western bloc -- missed their mark of gaining outright victories in most of the remaining largest cities.
The Fandakova-Manolova faceoff is scheduled for November 3.
Outright GERB victories in mayoral races were projected in Burgas, Stara Zagora, and Veliko Tarnovo, with Varna pivoting on a potential second-round election.
A second round of voting may also take place in Plovdiv, Blagoevgrad, Pazardzhik, Pleven, Ruse, Haskovo, and others.
Four years ago, GERB won 22 of the 28 regional cities, winning 11 of them in the first round. The political canvas looks different this time around.
In Blagoevgrad, incumbent mayor Atanas Kambitov of GERB leads by about 10 percent ahead of the independent candidate Rumen Tomov, exit polls suggest.
In Varna, Ivan Portnih could win the first-round battle for a third term as city mayor. Support for him hovers at 49.5 percent. His opponent is likely to be Anelia Klisarova of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP).
Nationwide voter turnout hovered at 43 percent among 6.2 million eligible voters, with observers saying many didn’t come out to vote because they felt the outcome had been predetermined.
A total of 36,233 candidates ran for mayoral and municipal council seats.
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s GERB party has won all but one major election since 2009.
In elections to the EU parliament in May, GERB emerged as the leading party despite allegations of corruption against prominent party officials.