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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Egyptian Court Jails 23 Pro-Morsi Supporters

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials say gunmen have killed two members of the country's security forces More

Pakistani Journalists Protest Shooting of Colleague

Hamid Mir, a host for private television channel Geo, was wounded after being shot three times Saturday, but is expected to survive More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid