Bulgarian government quits after days of protests

Bulgaria's prime minister announced Wednesday the surprise resignation of his government after days of sometimes violent rallies, paving the way for early elections in the European Union's poorest member.

"It is the people who put us in power and we give it back to them today," Boyko Borisov told parliament.

"I will not participate in a government where the police beat people up or where threats for protests replace political dialogue," he said.

Parliament, where Borisov's GERB party holds a near majority, was expected to accept the resignation when it meets at 9:00 am (0700 GMT) Thursday.

With both Borisov and his opposition Socialists refusing to form a new cabinet under the current parliament, a caretaker government of experts will have to be appointed by the president to organise early elections.

The vote will most likely take place in late April.

Bulgaria has been shaken over the past 10 days by nationwide protests first sparked by soaring electricity prices that later snowballed into bitter anger against deepening poverty and widespread corruption in the country.

The small Balkan economy has avoided any major turmoil amid the global crisis but Borisov's severely cash-strapped government had frozen public salaries at about 400 euros ($534) and typical pensions at 138 euros ($184) for the past three years.

Frustration was particularly heightened by a 13-percent rise in electricity prices in July that doubled winter-season bills as utility and food expenses eat up most of Bulgarians' incomes.

Unemployment hit 11.9 percent of the workforce in January, official data showed, but unions said the real figure was 17 or 18 percent.

The protests got out of hand this week, when tens of thousands of people staged daily rallies across the country, shouting "Mafia!", "Garbage!" and "Resign!" in what was the largest spontaneous outburst of public anger in the country since 1997.

Violent clashes erupted on Monday and Tuesday night with running battles between protestors and police leaving 28 people injured.

Two men also reportedly set themselves on fire, one of whom -- an unemployed mentally ill -- has died while the other was in hospital with 80-percent burns.

Borisov attempted to take the heat out of the crisis by announcing on Monday the sacking of the unpopular finance minister and on Tuesday saying he would revoke the licence of Czech electricity firm CEZ and try to lower electricity prices by 8.0 percent.

"There is nothing more we could do, we gave the maximum... I do not want to see blood on the streets again," the premier said Wednesday.

Analysts have long said that people's empty cupboards were set to cause the once hugely popular Borisov to lose his sway with voters as the end of his government's term in July neared.

The 53-year-old former firefighter, bodyguard of communist dictator Todor Zhivkov and police chief came to power in 2009 with pledges to root out organised crime and corruption and improve living standards.

A failure to do that however eroded support for his GERB party to about 22 percent, allowing the opposition Socialists to catch up in the polls, a recent Gallup poll showed.

With a political crisis now adding to people's economic woes, analysts expressed doubts on Wednesday that the resignation would be enough to assuage the tensions, while the country entered a long period of instability.

Fresh protests, even if less numerous, were held across the country late on Wednesday.

About 1,000 demonstrators in Sofia again blocked a key downtown crossroads as they attempted to march on the parliament building, encircled since Tuesday with anti-riot metal fences.

Police prevented protesters from clashing with a small group of government supporters that had also gathered outside parliament.

A new massive rally was scheduled for Sunday.

An Alpha Research poll on Wednesday showed that 85 percent of Bulgarians support the protests.

Opinions were however polarised about Borisov's shock resignation with 50 percent backing it and 47 percent against.

As much as 73 percent of the people favoured the formation of a caretaker cabinet, Alpha Research analyst Boryana Dimitrova said, warning that people's trust in political parties was "dangerously low."

  • Nissan tests self-cleaning paint that could make car washes obsolete 59 minutes ago
    Nissan tests self-cleaning paint that could make car washes obsolete

    During this vile, never-ending winter, motorists had three options to keep their cars clean: Shell out on regular car washes; slave away in the cold, wind and snow washing it yourself, or screw it and just drive a dirty car. I, like many, chose the last option. But if only I'd been able to test Nissan's self-cleaning car, all my troubles would have washed away.

  • Popular hot yoga myths debunked 7 hours ago
    Popular hot yoga myths debunked

    What’s the hottest new workout taking the world by storm? That would be hot yoga, also known as Bikram yoga. Conducted in a heated room with sweltering temperatures of about 40°C (or approximately 104° Fahrenheit) and 40 per cent humidity, … Continue reading →

  • Thursday #sgroundup: Body found of boy who made first call from Korea ferry: report 8 hours ago
    Thursday #sgroundup: Body found of boy who made first call from Korea ferry: report

    Here are today’s top trending stories in case you missed them.

  • Photo of a very thin Lee Kuan Yew sparks concern
    Photo of a very thin Lee Kuan Yew sparks concern

    A new picture of Singapore's first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who is now 90 years old, has drawn concern from people on Singapore's internet space.

  • Waste oil collector struggles after STOMP posts, receives help from kind souls
    Waste oil collector struggles after STOMP posts, receives help from kind souls

    After being photographed at work in Jurong pooling used oil near coffee shops, 50-year-old Valerie Sim has been struggling to keep her family afloat. Web portals STOMP and The Real Singapore published pictures of her in February, triggering a witch hunt for others like her and comments from readers like “Who knows if they’ll use it as cooking oil?” Some readers also said they filed police reports against her and other people they believed were doing the same thing she was.

  • I tendered my resignation without securing the next job. Here’s why I don’t mind.
    I tendered my resignation without securing the next job. Here’s why I don’t mind.

    I have committed a taboo – I have tendered my resignation without securing the next job. The reactions to the announcement were varied but they all pretty much hint at a deep sense of disapproval. “Why did you do that?” It was as if I had renounced my faith. “What are you going to do from now on?” Almost as though a misfortune had incapacitated me. “What does your family have to say about it?” As if I had offered to cook for the next family dinner. I was, and still am, certain of my reasons and motivations for the resignation. However the response I received got me thinking about why people are so concerned about the gaps in their careers. The developed world evolved from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy to the service age, then to the knowledge economy in the late 1990s and 2000s marked by breakthroughs in technological innovations and competition for innovation with new products and processes that develop from the research community. According to The Work Foundation, the knowledge economy is driven by the demand for higher value added goods and services created by more sophisticated, more discerning, and better educated consumers and ... The post I tendered my resignation without securing the next job. Here’s why I don’t mind. appeared first on Vulcan Post.