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Elections: Voting bucks trend. Protesters in Sofia call for general strike.

The renamed Communists held a commanding lead Friday in Bulgaria's first free elections in 58 years, bucking the anti-communist trend in countries that emerged from the Soviet orbit in the past year.

The party, and once Moscow's most loyal follower, appeared likely to become the only ruling party in Eastern Europe to retain power in multiparty elections, according to projections from independent polling organizations.However, opposition leaders charged that Sunday's parliamentary vote had been marred by irregularities and more than 2,000 protesters demonstrated outside Parliament Monday, shouting "fraud" and calling for a general strike.

Observers from more than a dozen countries pronounced the elections fair.

Police cordoned off the building, and the crowd appeared to be growing. The opposition scheduled a mass evening rally for downtown Sofia.

Independent projections gave the Socialists, heirs to the long-ruling Communist Party, about 48 percent of the vote in Sunday's parliamentary vote. The main opposition coalition, the Union of Democratic Forces, had just under 35 percent. Official results were expected later Monday.

There were complaints from opposition officials that the ballot-counting was moving very slowly. But Union chairman Zhelyu Zhelev told reporters that he did not believe the opposition would challenge the elections' validity.

"In the worst case we shall want new elections (in districts) where there have been real flagrant violations," he said.

The West German polling organization Infas said the opposition won the capital of Sofia, where it was expected to receive about 55 percent of the vote against 38 percent for the Socialists, who called themselves Communists until April.