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 Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs