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A tough guy for a tough country

Meet Boyko Borisov: a former bodyguard and perhaps Bulgaria's next prime minister.

Adding to Borisov's popularity were his commonsensical, Rudolph Giuliani-like moves to improve the quality of life in Sofia. In recent months, for example, Borisov installed black-and-white metal poles on curbs in numerous Sofia neighborhoods to put an end to drivers parking on sidewalks, making them impassable.

It's unclear which party Borisov might tap as his partner in a coalition government. But already his government should be more stable than the coalition assembled by the Socialists, giving him a good chance to maintain his image as a strongman. Bulgaria's Central Electoral Committee on Monday reported that GERB won 116 seats in the 240-seat parliament, just five seats shy of a majority.

He has said he would prefer the Blue Coalition, a group of parties whose members were key figures in the democratic movement that brought down the Communist regime in the early 1990s. They received less than 7 percent of the vote, or 15 seats.

But reports said Borisov has also not ruled out an alliance with Ataka, a far-right nationalist party that earned almost 10 percent of the vote. Ataka is critical of EU membership, foreigners who purchased land in the countryside during the recent real estate boom and the power of a controversial Turkish minority political party — the Movement of Rights and Freedoms (MRF) — that that is a junior member of the current Socialist-led coalition.

During the campaign, Borisov criticized the MRF for its get-out-the-vote efforts, which news reports said included transporting ethnic Turks with Bulgarian citizenship from Turkey across the border to polling stations. Many ethnic-Slavs view the 9-percent Turkish minority in the country as an unwelcome holdover from when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire through the late 19th century.

More on Bulgaria:

A bag of sugar for your vote?

More on Eastern Europe:

Pedaling the Iron Curtain

A bearish direction for Polish banking?

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/europe-at-large/090706/tough-guy-tough-country