News / Europe

    Bulgarian PM's Comments Deepen Leadership Crisis

    Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov speaks in the Parliament in Sofia, Feb. 20, 2013. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov speaks in the Parliament in Sofia, Feb. 20, 2013.
    x
    Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov speaks in the Parliament in Sofia, Feb. 20, 2013.
    Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov speaks in the Parliament in Sofia, Feb. 20, 2013.
    Reuters
    Bulgaria's outgoing prime minister on Friday criticized the idea of forming a grand coalition to calm anti-government protests, deepening uncertainty over who will lead the European Union's poorest economy.

    The mass demonstrations against high electricity prices and low living standards have left Bulgaria facing an early parliamentary election in May in which protest votes could leave the main parties struggling to form a majority.

    With many voters disillusioned with years of unmet promises, parties have watered down grandiose claims of what they would do in government, seeking to calm public anger at a political class that is widely viewed as corrupt and self-serving.

    "I'd vote for a new party," said Bonka Ruseva, a pensioner in the capital Sofia. "These young people who are protesting are so brave and I believe they can change the situation in the country."

    Thousands of demonstrators shout slogans protesting high utility bills and energy-sector monopolies, Sofia, Bulgaria, Feb. 24, 2013.Thousands of demonstrators shout slogans protesting high utility bills and energy-sector monopolies, Sofia, Bulgaria, Feb. 24, 2013.
    x
    Thousands of demonstrators shout slogans protesting high utility bills and energy-sector monopolies, Sofia, Bulgaria, Feb. 24, 2013.
    Thousands of demonstrators shout slogans protesting high utility bills and energy-sector monopolies, Sofia, Bulgaria, Feb. 24, 2013.
    The size of the protests has dwindled since right-wing premier Boiko Borisov said last week he would step down. With parliament set to be dissolved as early as next week, Bulgaria faces a political vacuum.

    Large rallies are planned again across the country for Sunday, a national holiday marking liberation from Turkish rule.

    Socialist leader Sergei Stanishev, voted out as premier in 2009 as a credit bubble burst and Bulgaria's economy shrank by five percent, said he would not serve as prime minister even if his party won the May vote.

    He has given no hint of whom he might support, and Borisov appeared to dismiss the idea of a national unity coalition on Friday.

    "We are being offered a new form of governance,'' Borisov said of Stanishev's move, "in which party leaders form some kind of general council, while some puppets play the roles of prime minister and ministers."

    Analysts said Borisov's remarks reinforced earlier comments that he would not do a deal with another party. His government had worked without a majority, with backing from independents.

    "Borisov is a lone player," said Rumiana Kolarova, a political analyst with Sofia University. "That has made him also the least-desired coalition partner."

    Protest Leaders May Form Party

    Borisov, a charismatic former bodyguard and karate black belt, has cut Bulgaria's budget deficit and public debt is one of the lowest in the EU at 15 percent of output. But his policies, including tax rises and wage and pension freezes, have alienated much of the population.

    The new government could find it even harder to meet their demands - tax revenue has fallen, debt payments have grown and  Bulgaria is contributing more to the European Union budget.

    Those pressures helped send Bulgaria's budget deficit jumping 80 percent in January from a year earlier, according to Finance Ministry figures issued on Friday.

    In response to the protests, Borisov's GERB party has proposed to cut electricity prices by eight percent. The energy regulator on Friday proposed a smaller, 6.4 percent cut.

    Borisov's GERB is running neck and neck in polls with its rival Socialists but neither is likely to win a majority.

    Potential coalition partners, the ethnic Turkish MRF and Bulgaria for the Citizens - a pro-business group run by former European Commissioner Megleva Kuneva - have avoided saying who they might work with or how they would raise living standards that are less than half the EU average.

    New Parties, Nationalists Could Benefit

    Kuneva's party had support of about five percent before the protests spread but could benefit as a newcomer to Bulgaria's political scene. She has indicated she would avoid any coalition and support laws on an ad-hoc basis.

    This leaves space for protest leaders to form their own grouping and tap the sense of deep discontent with a country still struggling to shrug off decades of communist neglect and misrule, where the average monthly wage is 400s euro and pensions less than half that.

    Bulgaria's President Rosen Plevneliev has tried an inclusive approach and met with protesters to hear their grievances.

    The protesters have yet to unite behind a single leader or carve out a clear set of demands or policies.

    That adds to the sense of limbo which may benefit nationalist parties such as the far-right Attack, adding to the deep uncertainty over the May vote.

    "The big question is whether the street will manage to create a new leader. If it can't and the next parliament sees the same old political faces, it will have a very short life,"  said Andrei Raichev of pollster Gallup International.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora