Bulgaria president calls May election after protests

Thu Feb 28, 2013 6:43am EST
 

By Tsvetelia Tsolova and Sam Cage

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's president on Thursday called for a new political culture that would prevent citizens being "robbed" and "lied to" as he named an election date of May 12 to try to stem a surge of popular discontent.

Prime Minister Boiko Borisov quit last week after nationwide protests against high electricity prices - the final straw to many citizens in the European Union's poorest country, who have begun to despair of any improvement in living standards or governance.

While Bulgaria has avoided the debt or deficit problems of many of its peers, maintaining a currency peg to the euro, economic growth is sluggish and unemployment has risen to almost 12 percent.

Demonstrations by tens of thousands of Bulgarians have already forced some concessions including a promise that electricity firms will be forced to cut prices by 8 percent. Whoever wins the election will be under considerable pressure to spend in order to raise a standard of living that is less than half the EU average.

"Our compatriots make it clear they want simple things - they want decent politicians, they don't want to be robbed, they do not want to be lied to and they want to live good lives," President Rosen Plevneliev told parliament.

He said an interim government, which will probably be appointed next week, would aim for stability by sticking to the 2013 budget, which foresees a deficit of 1.3 percent of GDP, and implementing previous commitments such as a 9 percent increase in pensions from April.

NEXT PARLIAMENT

The president said he wanted the next parliament to focus on passing strong laws against monopolies - one of the protesters' demands - and full liberalization of the electricity market, to give consumers greater choice.   Continued...

 
Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev delivers his speech at the parliament in Sofia February 28, 2013. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov