SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) _ Bulgaria's ruling party sought to bolster its power base in regions outside the capital Saturday in local elections seen as a barometer of the tolerance for austerity programs in the southern European country.

Saturday's voting consisted of runoff elections after most candidates failed to win a majority in the first round of voting one week ago. Some official results were expected Sunday.

In the first vote last week, Bulgarians reacted with apathy to unpopular and painful reforms by the center-right government, thwarting the government's plans to bolster its power base on a regional level. Bulgaria's ruling United Democratic Forces won only 18 municipalities out of the 62 that had declared winners. A half dozen other parties split the other positions.

The 200 municipalities where no candidate mustered 50 percent of the vote held runoffs Saturday.

There were scattered reports of voting irregularities. In some districts, money and food was handed to voters. Ballot sheets that had been filled out in advance were distributed in several municipalities, independent observers reported.