Austerity erodes support for Bulgaria's ruling party
SOFIA (Reuters) - Support for Bulgaria's ruling GERB party fell to 24.5 percent in November, dropping by 2.3 percentage points from September, as the European Union's poorest nation struggles under austerity measures, an opinion poll showed on Thursday.
Bulgaria's economic crisis has eaten away at the center-right GERB's popularity since it took office in July 2009. It won nearly 40 percent of votes in a parliamentary election on promises to tackle a deep recession, organized crime and graft.
GERB's popularity sank further after it voted for judge Veneta Markovska to take a position in the country's highest court but then tried to distance itself from the vote when the European Commission raised concerns about her integrity.
With less than eight months to go before general elections, support for the opposition Socialists rose to 19 percent from 17.5 percent, according to the public opinion survey by state-funded pollster NPOC, carried out between November 1 and November 7.
Thousands of Bulgarians protested on Saturday against the government's handling of the struggling economy and called on the cabinet to resign in one of the country's biggest anti-austerity rallies in recent years.
Bulgaria's jobless rate rose to 11 percent in October while government officials and analysts expect it to stay in double figures over the next two years [ID:nL5E8MG67F].
Bulgaria's economic stability in recent years has come at the expense of low living standards in the country, where the average monthly pension is $176 and the average salary $460.
Support for the ethnic Turkish MRF party was 6.4 percent in November from 7.0 percent in September, the poll among 1,000 people showed.
(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Rosalind Russell)
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