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Oct 23, 2007 17:47 EEST
October 23 (SeeNews) - The ruling Socialists and a centrist movement set up by Sofia Mayor Boiko Borisov are expected to dominate Bulgarian local elections on Sunday, seen as a dress rehearsal for general elections in 2009, analysts said.
The local poll comes at a time when the Socialist-led coalition government is being rocked by a four-week strike of school teachers and forest rangers seeking more pay. Almost all the schools in the country have been closed for over a month now, as the strike was called immediately after the school year started on September 15.
The government survived on Tuesday a right-wing opposition no-confidence motion over education policy. The motion was rejected in a 160-61 vote in the 240-seat parliament with one abstention. The motion needed 121 votes to pass.
It was the third such vote which the tripartite government coalition has survived since taking office in August 2005. The coalition, comprising the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the centrist National Movement for Simeon II (NMSII) and the predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), controls 169 seats in the chamber.
A total of 88 parties and coalitions have been registered to take part in the local elections. About 6.7 million are eligible to vote in the nation of 7.7 million. Polling day starts at 0600 local time (0300 GMT) and ends at 1900.
The centrist Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) is battling to strengthen its challenge, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) will fight to retain its leading position, while right-wing parties struggle to survive, the chairman of think-tank Centre for Liberal Strategies, Ivan Krastev, said.
GERB candidates lead in the capital Sofia and the second biggest city of Plovdiv, while candidates supported by BSP are the most popular iin the other big cities.
Mayor Borisov, the unofficial leader of GERB, has repeatedly said that he would press for early parliamentary elections if GERB wins the local vote. However, the analysts say that this is almost impossible, as the BSP-led coalition have a majority in the parliament.
GERB, surprisingly won highest support at Bulgaria's first poll for European parliamentarians in May against BSP.
However, most people say they will vote at the local elections for candidates they like, regardless of which party they stand for.
Bulgarian business tends to show great interest in local elections with many businessman being nominated for mayors and members of municipal councils. Bulgaria, which joined the European Union (EU) in January, is due to receive more than seven billion euro by 2013 under six operational programmes from the EU with the funds primarily allocated on a municipality basis.
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