Reuters International

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's Socialist Party (BSP), the biggest opposition party in the Balkan country, chose a new leader on Sunday with the task of winning back disaffected voters and pushing for an early general election.

Kornelia Ninova, the first female leader in the BSP's 125-year history, won 395 votes from delegates at the party's congress, with her predecessor Mihail Mikov coming second on 349.

"Dear comrades, thank you for the trust placed in me," 47-year-old Ninova said after her election to lead the BSP, heir to Bulgaria's once-mighty Communist Party.

"I will not let you down, I will not betray you. Tomorrow, we will change the BSP together."

On Saturday, Ninova said the new leader, whoever it might be, should unite the party and press for early elections, aiming to oust the "inhuman" centre-right government, led by Prime Minister Boiko Borisov.

After coming to power for a second time in October 2014, Borisov promised an immediate push for reforms to spur economic growth and attract investment, following a period of instability that stifled attempts to implement change and root out corruption in one of Europe's poorest countries.

Bulgaria, however, still ranked as the EU's most corrupt country in Transparency International's 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index and has been rapped repeatedly by Brussels for failing to combat rampant organised crime and jail high-level officials.

Ninova faces a tough task in rebuilding support for a party hit by divisions and which has seen several poor performances at general and local elections.

The BSP came second in the 2014 parliamentary election, collecting 18.3 percent of the vote. Borisov's GERB party won comfortably with 35.9 percent.

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

reuters_tickers

 Reuters International