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Briefly: Europe

- - Sunday, October 23, 2011

BULGARIA

Exit poll shows candidates face runoff

SOFIA — Bulgaria's presidential election will go to a runoff because none of the candidates garnered more than 50 percent of the vote, according to an exit poll.

Bulgaria's economic woes have been the key campaign issue, with the opposition accusing incumbents of stalling key reforms.

Besides the vote for a new president, heated mayoral battles took place in many of the 264 municipalities.

Nearly 40 percent of the votes Sunday were cast for center-right presidential candidate Rosen Plevneliev against about 30 percent for socialist contender Ivailo Kalfin, according to results from an exit poll conducted by the Alpha Research agency.

A runoff will be held Oct. 30 because none of the candidates garnered more than 50 percent.

Most power in Bulgaria rests with the prime minister and parliament, but the president leads the armed forces and can veto legislation and sign international treaties.

With an unprecedented decision, the Central Election Commission extended by one hour the time for voting, saying there were still many voters lined up at polling stations.

The move was sharply criticized by opposition politicians who think it was an attempt by the incumbents to manipulate the vote. They did not elaborate but said they could contest the vote.

Voter turnout was at more than 50 percent, the election commission said.

VATICAN CITY

Pope names 3 new saints; man disrupts Mass

Pope Benedict XVI named three new saints for the Catholic Church during a Mass on Sunday in St. Peter's Square that was disrupted by a man who climbed out onto the upper colonnade of the square and burned a Bible.

Vatican gendarmes, a bishop and the pope's own bodyguard talked the man back from the edge of the colonnade after he shouted, "Pope, where is Christ?" in English and threw the burned Bible to the crowd below.

Benedict and the thousands in the square appeared unfazed by the incident and carried on with the Mass.

The disruption came toward the end of the two-hour service Sunday to canonize three 19th-century founders of religious orders: Italian bishop and missionary Monsignor Guido Maria Conforti, Spanish nun Sister Bonifacia Rodriguez de Castro, and an Italian priest who worked with the poor, the Rev. Luigi Guanella.

SWITZERLAND

Immigration, energy top Swiss election agenda

BERN — Swiss citizens voting in national elections Sunday were poised to hand nationalists an unprecedented 30 percent voice, following voting dominated by concerns about immigration, nuclear power and the economy.

The Swiss People's Party was well ahead of other parties, at 29.3 percent in a recent opinion poll. It has been running campaign ads that stoke fears of immigrants spoiling an Alpine nation that's been an oasis of relative stability within stormy Europe.

The party's striking posters of black boots stomping on the Swiss flag with the message "Stop Mass Immigration" build on earlier graphically successful campaigns featuring white sheep kicking out a black sheep or dark hands grasping for Swiss passports.

"Because the people are the sovereign, because we have this very special [political] system, for us it's not acceptable that we have to open the frontiers, and we have no possibility to say who can come, and under which conditions. We want to regulate this," said Oskar Freysinger, a hard-line People's Party lawmaker.

The party accused foreigners of driving up Switzerland's crime rate and is campaigning for those convicted of crimes to be deported.

The nationalists and centrist parties are competing with two small green parties and environmental-minded candidates of all stripes making gains amid growing anti-nuclear-power sentiment in the wake of the March disaster at Japan's Fukushima reactor.

Turnout in Switzerland was expected to be close to 50 percent, and the results may not be known until early Monday. Runoff ballots may be needed in some of the country's 26 cantons (states) for Senate seats.