Pro-Russian candidates win elections in Bulgaria and Moldova

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov casts his vote at a polling station during the Presidential elections in Sofia on November 6, 2016.    Bulgarians vote in the first round of presidential elections expected to set up a close runoff between Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's right-hand-woman and a MiG-flying ex-general seen as sympathetic to Moscow. / AFP / Julia Lazarova        (Photo credit should read JULIA LAZAROVA/AFP/Getty Images)


Voters in Bulgaria and Moldova elected pro-Russian populist presidents on the weekend, adding to mounting concern about Western unity,The Daily Telegraph reports.

Bulgarian Socialist ally Rumen Radev, a Russia-friendly newcomer to politics, won Sunday’s presidential election by a wide margin, exit polls showed, prompting centre-right Prime Minister Boiko Borisov (left) to pledge to resign, Reuters reports

Radev, 53, entered Bulgarian politics on a wave of discontent with the ruling centre-right’s progress in combating corruption, disappointment with the European Union and concerns among voters over alienating an increasingly assertive Russia. A former air force commander, Radev has argued Bulgaria needs to be pragmatic in balancing the requirements of its European Union and NATO memberships while seeking ways to benefit from a relationship with Moscow.

“The big question is whether Radev would translate all this political talk during the campaign into actions,” said Daniel Smilov, a program director at the Center for Liberal Strategies, a research group in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital.

moldova_infographic_october_2016A presidential runoff was also held Sunday in Moldova. There, too, a pro-Russia candidate appeared certain of victory over his pro-Western opponent, a former World Bank official. That would put a Moscow-leaning socialist in the Moldovan presidency for the first time since 2009, The NY Times adds:

The campaign of the likely winner in Moldova’s presidential election, Igor Dodon, featured photographs of him with Mr. Putin. Mr. Dodon, 41, has said he wants to call a referendum on whether to extricate Moldova from its European Union agreement, in favor of membership in the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union.

The election was held at a time of increased dissatisfaction in Moldova. A separate banking scandal there in 2014 involved the disappearance of $1 billion, roughly an eighth of the country’s gross domestic product, from three of the country’s banks. Many people blamed those in power, as well as the influence of oligarchs, for the rampant corruption.

“It is a sort of protest vote,” said Igor Munteanu, the executive director of the Institute for Development and Social Initiatives, a Moldovan research group. “This is not a victory for Putin per se, but it is a defeat for pro-democratic forces.”

“The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses: Russian Influence in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.”

Panelists: report co-author Marlene Laruelle, director of the Central Asia Program and associate director of the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at George Washington University; report co-author Neil Barnett, senior research fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation in Kyiv; report co-author Alina Polyakova, deputy director of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center and senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative; Mitchell Orenstein, senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania; and Peter Kreko, visiting professor at Indiana University

9 a.m.: November 16, 2016

Venue: Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C. RSVP

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