As Bulgaria readies to hold presidential elections on Oct. 23, a Bulgarian citizen of Turkish origin will be among the candidates.
Sali Şaban, born in Kardzhali, Bulgaria, said he is the first Turk and Muslim candidate running for presidency in Bulgaria.
“This is a democracy test for Bulgaria. Having a Turkish-Muslim candidate, Bulgaria will show it is equal before the law,” Şaban said at a press conference in Istanbul yesterday, adding that he was proud to be a Bulgarian citizen and would work for his country’s prosperity if elected.
Polls have indicated that none of the 18 presidential candidates are likely to win Sunday’s election with more than 50 percent of the vote. A runoff will be required on Oct. 30. In Bulgaria, presidents have no executive powers, but they can veto legislation approved by Parliament.
Bulgaria’s current socialist president, Georgi Parvanov, has served two five-year terms and is prevented from seeking re-election.
Meanwhile, international observers have their eyes fixed on presidential and municipal elections in Bulgaria amid warnings of widespread vote-buying practices.
According to corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI), one in five Bulgarians is prepared to sell his or her vote. Some 12 percent would agree to vote for any candidate in exchange for a modest 15-25 euros, while 6.8 percent would do so for between 50 and 75 euros – not an insignificant amount in the EU’s poorest member state, where the average monthly salary is 360 euros – the organization found.
Vote-buying in exchange for money, food or cancelled debts has been a common practice since the end of communism, especially in minority Roma neighborhoods. But following EU accession in 2007, which suddenly gave town authorities access to European aid, the trend has grown to alarming proportions, according to observers.
Compiled from AP and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.