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HomeBalkansBulgaria’s Leading Party Fast Tracks Former News Director as Sofia Mayoral Candidate

Bulgaria’s Leading Party Fast Tracks Former News Director as Sofia Mayoral Candidate

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Former Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borissov and his GERB party announced on Monday that their long-awaited candidate for the Sofia mayoral election on October 29 will be political novice Anton Hekimyan, widely known as a popular journalist and TV presenter and most recently as a news director. 

In his first comments since the announcement, Hekimyan told reporters that he was personally invited to run by Borissov around a week ago. “After I received the invitation to be GERB’s candidate for mayor of Sofia, I realised that I want to continue to work for society. I have done it through all this time and I think I can do it on the other side,” said Hekimyan, who last week stepped down from his role as a director of the News, Current Affairs and Sports section of bTV to pursue “a different professional path”. 

Аnton Hekimyan was born into a Bulgarian-Armenian family in the town of Stara Zagora in 1984. He started as an intern at bTV in 2003, then went on to become a full-time reporter and by 2013 was one of the most recognisable presenters on air. In 2020, he became a news director. 

On September 23, Hekimyan announced his departure from the channel after two decades working there, fuelling speculation that he might join the mayoral race. In the last several years, Borissov has made his rare TV appearances predominantly on bTV, and was interviewed in a non-confrontational manner by Hekimyan several times.

GERB’s decision was still something of a surprise. Throughout the past year, the chair of the Sofia City Council, Georgi Georgiev, was widely believed to be GERB’s favoured choice to follow outgoing mayor Yordanka Fandakova, who has been in the post since 2009. 

However, in recent days Borissov hinted that the nomination would be “atypical” and said there were six potential names on the list. “I’ll decide when I get home,” Borissov told local media on Sunday. 

The mayoral elections will test the stability of the current government, which has been in power since early June after a two-year election cycle and comprises two opposing blocks – GERB and United Democratic Forces, and We Continue the Change and Democratic Bulgaria. These two electoral blocks will promote opposing candidates in the mayoral elections even as they try to stay together in government. 

Hekimyan will run against tech entrepreneur Vassil Terziev, who has been nominated by We Continue the Change, Democratic Bulgaria and the activist organisation-turned party Save Sofia, all critical of GERB’s legacy of corruption and infrastructural issues. 

“The collusion between power and the media clearly shows the ill condition of our society,” Terziev said on Monday, referencing the growing concerns that Hekimyan has been framing a pro-GERB narrative throughout his media career.

Some of the other announced runners include independent right-wing candidate Vili Lilkov, syndicalist Vanya Grigorova of the pro-Kremlin Bulgarian Socialist Party, and Deyan Nikolov of the other major pro-Russia party in Bulgaria, the far-right Revival

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