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Bulgaria: Exiled King Urges Early Elections

Sofia, 17 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Bulgaria's exiled King Simeon said today he supports opposition demands for early general elections. In a statement released by his press office in Sofia, Simeon -- who lives in Madrid -- urged Bulgarian politicians to set a date for the elections as soon as possible. He said that in every democratic country early elections are accepted practice when the ruling party has disappointed the people.

Bulgaria has been locked in a political crisis. Outgoing President Zhelyu Zhelev has delayed giving the socialists a mandate to form a new government. The move followed days of public protests amid fears that the country could be plunged into further economic chaos.

President Zhelev today again postponed granting the ruling Socialist party permission to form a new government. The state-run BTA news agency quotes Socialist parliamentary faction leader Krassimir Premyanov as saying Zhelev had failed to comply with his constitutional powers and had not given the Socialists a mandate to form a new government. Premyanov also said the delay would lead to further destabilization of society and the economy.

Earlier today in a statement, published in the Socialist party newspaper Duma, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov warned the state faces collapse unless a new government is elected by parliament within days.

Videnov, who is widely blamed for the mismanagement of Bulgaria's economy, resigned late last month. President Zhelev delayed giving the Socialists a mandate for a new government because of public protests, which earlier this month sparked some violent clashes. Bulgaria's anti-Socialist opposition rejects the formation of a new Socialist government and calls for the holding of a general election, slated for late 1998, not later than May this year.

President Zhelev will likely leave the issue of the new Socialist mandate to his successor, the opposition's Petar Stoyanov, who will take office January 22.

Bulgaria needs a new cabinet to negotiate fresh loans from the International Monetary Fund and prevent a default on paying off its $10 billion foreign debt.

At least 15,000 people attended an anti-Socialist rally and concert outside of Sofia's gold-domed Alexandar Nevski Cathedral near the parliament building yesterday. Concurrent rallies were planned in a dozen other towns.

The UDF is demanding elections no later than May. The Socialists have said only that they should be held before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, four leading members of the BSP's reformist wing annnounced yesterday that they are leaving the BSP. None of the four are members of parliament, so the move won't effect the BSP majority of 125 seats in the 240 seat National Assembly.