Rosen Plevneliev was declared the winner of Bulgaria's presidential election on Monday in an outcome that now gives his party control over all major government posts and will bolster its push for painful economic reforms.
Plevneliev won Sunday's contest with 52.56 percent vote and his Socialist challenger, Ivailo Kalfin, took 47.44 percent, the Central Election Commission in its final tally. It said the turnout was 48 percent.
Kalfin accepted the result and conceded defeat.
Most of the power in corruption-plagued Bulgaria, a Balkan country of 7.4 million people, rests with Prime Minister Boiko Borisov and Parliament, but the president leads the armed forces and can veto legislation and sign international treaties. He also names ambassadors and the heads of the intelligence and security services.
The governing GERB party now controls Bulgaria's top two executive positions and Parliament.
Plevneliev, 47, is a former entrepreneur who has been lauded for pushing through several large-scale infrastructure projects as regional development minister. He has pledged to reduce the budget deficit and pursue business-friendly policies. He also said he would do his best to unite Bulgarians in pursuit of reforms in the judicial and health care systems, while diversifying energy supplies and improving trade.
Plevneliev said one of his first tasks will be to replace ambassadors who served as agents of Bulgaria's former communist secret service. The outgoing president, Georgi Parvanov, who was named as a former agent by the same panel in 2007, refused to recall them.
Plevneliev will take office on Jan. 23. He will replace Parvanov, the former leader of the Socialist Party who often criticized the government, vetoed legislation or key judicial and diplomatic appointments. Parvanov was barred by law from seeking re-election because he had served two five-year terms.
The center-right GERB party also scored victories in the run-off elections for local mayors in most of Bulgaria's big cities, including in the capital, Sofia.
The election was marred by reports of violations, including allegations of vote-buying, according to the Bulgarian branch of graft watchdog Transparency International.
"Bulgaria's presidential and municipal elections underscored the need for further improving the electoral process," monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in a statement on Monday.
"It is important to address shortcomings such as persistent allegations of vote buying," said mission head Vadim Zhdanovich. "This should be properly investigated and long-standing recommendations should also be considered."
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