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Bulgaria: New Cabinet Expected By Mid-January

By Ivo Indzhev and Petko Georgiev

Sofia, 30 December 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Bulgaria's ruling Socialist party -- the reformed communist party -- says it will form a new government by mid-January following the resignation of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov.

The party's new leader, Georgi Parvanov, says that Socialist leaders met President Zhelyu Zhelev today and that he had invited the party to form a new government.

Parvanov said in the capital, Sofia, that consultations are "proceeding well." He said a party plenum will be held on January 8, with the aim of presenting a cabinet list to Zhelev on January 10. He said he hopes parliament will vote on the proposal January 16.

Videnov resigned earlier this month, saying he lacked the support to continue. Zhelev said yesterday that he regretted that he lacked the power to dismiss the prime minister and cabinet himself. He said the country's severe economic crisis could then have been avoided. But he said the ruling Socialists are almost assured of remaining in power for two more years, despite Videnov's resignation.

Possible new prime ministers include the speaker of parliament Blagovest Sendov, Interior Minister Nikolai Dobrev, and former foreign minister Georgi Pirinski. Zhelev himself is due to leave office next month and hand over to president-elect Petar Stoyanov.

Our correspondent reports opposition leaders are organizing a rally on Friday in Sofia to support a move to dissolve the current parliament and call early elections.

In a statement issued yesterday, outgoing President Zhelev said "no government" can "save Bulgaria" from its deep economic crisis. Instead, he again called for constitutional changes to enhance the powers of a president relative to Parliament. Zhelev said that, despite Videnov's resignation, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) is virtually assured of remaining in power for another two years.