Bulgaria faces deadlock after government quits

Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:27am EST
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By Michael Winfrey and Tsvetelia Tsolova

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's parliament on Thursday accepted the government's decision to resign in the face of anti-austerity protests, opening the way for an early election that may benefit fringe parties and make it hard to form a stable government.

Outgoing Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, praised by investors for cutting the budget deficit, lost support from voters in the European Union's poorest state over his failure to raise living standards or stamp out graft.

After mass protests set off by high energy bills, Borisov stepped down on Wednesday -- the latest administration to fall in Europe's four-year-old debt crisis.

Parliament voted on Thursday to accept the move and President Rosen Plevneliev will now ask the three biggest parties if they want to form a government to rule until a parliamentary election due in July.

But both Borisov's GERB party and the main opposition Socialists have said they do not want to participate in a caretaker cabinet, so Plevneliev could schedule an election for as early as April. Opinions polls put both parties on about 22-23 percent, suggesting no clear majority in the new parliament.

"We are open for dialogue with all parties but GERB, who ruined everything," said Socialist leader Sergei Stanishev, whose party was level in polls with Borisov's before the protests and may have benefited from the unrest.

The cabinet's departure brought some calm after a chaotic week of rallies against the government and foreign-owned power utilities and a threat by Bulgarian officials to strip one of them, Czech power group CEZ, of its license.

Boriana Dimitrova, an analyst with pollster Alpha Research, said it could push voters towards the political fringe.   Continued...

Outgoing Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov (R) reacts as he arrives at the parliament in Sofia February 21, 2013. Bulgaria's parliament accepted the government's resignation on Thursday after a spate of violent protests over high utility bills, opening the way for an early election and underscoring anger in Europe over weak growth and austerity. Outgoing Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, who had won praise from investors by cutting the Balkan state's budget deficit, is now struggling to rebuild support among voters weary of persistent poverty and graft. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov (BULGARIA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)