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 Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More