Bulgarians began voting in a snap general election on Sunday with the centre-right GERB party challenged for power by Socialists who say they will improve ties with Russia even if it means upsetting the country's European Union partners.
Opinion polls put the GERB party of former prime minister Boiko Borisov, 57, only narrowly ahead of the Socialists (BSP), who have seen their popularity rise since the candidate they backed, Rumen Radev, won Bulgaria's presidency in November.
Borisov resigned in the wake of Radev's victory, triggering Bulgaria's third parliamentary election in just four years.
While Bulgaria historically has had strong ties with Moscow, Borisov's GERB party is strongly pro-EU and has supported the bloc's sanctions on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis.
"BSP is quite right. Who, if not Bulgaria, should be Russia's closest partner? Why don't we remember what Russia did?" said Georgi Kasabov, a 69-year-old pensioner.
"It liberated us, it helped us build so many factories," Kasabov said, referring to the end of Ottoman rule in 1878 and industrial development during the Communist era.