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Bulgaria's Socialists Pledge To Lift Economy As Vote Nears

  • RFE/RL

Rumen Radev has called for better ties with Russia, although he pledged to maintain Bulgaria's NATO membership.

The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) has vowed to boost economic growth and fight corruption as part of its election program heading into the upcoming early parliamentary vote.

The pledge came on February 5 at the party congress as the BSP and its center-right rival, Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), began their stretch drives for the elections set for March 26.

Pro-Moscow Socialist candidate Rumen Radev’s victory in the November presidential election forced the resignation of GERB Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.

That, in turn, led to the president calling for early parliamentary elections.

Both parties are focusing on voters' pocketbooks.

As part of its platform, the BSP vowed to make substantial improvements in living standards in a country where more than 25 percent of the 7.2 million people live below the poverty line.

It proposed a 20 percent tax for high wage-earners but said it would provide interest-free credits for young families to buy a home.

GERB, meanwhile, promised to increase the average monthly wage by more than 50 percent to 1,500 levs ($824) over four years, to double teachers' salaries, and to keep tax rates at 10 percent.

The BSP has a fractional lead over GERB, according to the recent Gallup International poll.

During his presidential campaign, Radev called for better ties with Russia, although he pledged to maintain Bulgaria's NATO membership.

"Being pro-European doesn't mean being anti-Russian," he said.

Kornelia Ninova, the first female leader in the 126-year history of the party that dates back to the once-powerful Communist Party, told delegates at the congress that Bulgaria will "categorically" seek a lifting of EU sanctions against Moscow if the BSP wins the election.

The Socialists are also considering restarting some Russian projects, including the nuclear power project in Belene.

Borisov's pro-Western government canceled a 10 billion-euro ($11 billion) deal with Russia for a new 2,000-megawatt facility in Belene, citing costs and concerns over increased energy dependence on the Kremlin.

With reporting by Reuters and Novinite.com
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