Socialist Party leader Alexander Lilov was reelected to the party chairmanship today in a resounding defeat for liberals who sought faster economic reform and a complete break with the party's authoritarian past.
With up to a third of the membership threatening to walk out, Lilov appealed for party unity and promised to complete the democratic restructuring of the Socialist party, formerly known as the Communist Party.
Lilov won the leadership by a margin of 2 to 1 at the end of an all-night session of the 39th party congress in Sofia. Less than 24 hours earlier, he had offered to resign amid growing demands by reformist factions for a purge of the old-guard Communist leadership.
"I hope the leaders of the reformist factions will continue to work for the radical reformation and renovation of the party," Lilov said in a closing speech.
Liberal party members had predicted a split if Lilov was reelected and were to debate the issue at a meeting Saturday.
"We will not play the game of the old guard. If Lilov wins we will not serve on the presidium or on any bodies," said George Karasameonov, a delegate from Sofia and a prominent member of a radical reformist faction known as Demos, on Monday.