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Bulgaria: Socialists Expected To Decide Prime Minister's Fate

By Petko Georgiev and Robert Lyle

Sofia, 11 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - Bulgaria's governing Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) has scheduled a meeting today to discuss the loss of the presidential election this month.

Our Sofia correspondent reports all other parties are closely watching a BSP inner-party struggle. Prime Minister and Party leader Zhan Videnov has previously succeeded in outmaneuvering his critics from within and outside the Party. Videnov planned the Party meeting before regional Party branches could react to the election loss. But the Party's other leaders delayed the meeting, and as one Party official told our correspondent, political "bloodshed" is expected.

The BSP faces its greatest challenge, after 19 BSP Parliament deputies signed an open letter, calling for Videnov to resign as Prime Minister and as a Party leader.

The combined votes of the dissident BSP members, independent deputies in Parliament and opposition deputies would be enough to bring down Videnov's government. And, independent deputies have said they intend to initiate a vote of no-confidence in Videnov's Socialist Government this week.

The main opposition party, the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), says it will press for early parliamentary elections, but will not pursue a no-confidence motion before President-elect Petar Stoyanov is sworn in in January. Opposition candidate Stoyanov won almost 60 percent of the vote to defeat the BSP candidate in the November 3 presidential runoff.

Responding to his critics within the Party, Videnov has admitted differences over economic policy, but has said most problems are the result of what he called "fatal inertia" in politics during the past seven years.

Videnov attended the weekend Central European Initiative (CEI) summit in Graz, Austria. He told the Associated Press there on Saturday that he plans to seek a confidence vote at today's party meeting, and that he is not sure he will win such a vote. He also said that in his speech to party leaders today he will encourage taking "very quick measures for the financial stabilization of the country together with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)."

Videnov said before leaving for Graz that he is considering an IMF proposal for the creation of a so-called "currency board." The currency board would virtually replace Bulgaria's Central Bank, and would seek to restore order to the country's banking and financial systems, and stabilize the currency (LEV). The IMF has also proposed a reduction of about 30 percent in the Government's budget.

If Videnov steps down, Bulgarian reports say Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski and the chief of the Sofia branch of the BSP, Nikola Koychev, are frontrunners to succeed him.

A former BSP leader, Aleksandr Lilov, has called for BSP reform, or -- as he said -- the Party will disintegrate as a political force.