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Bulgaria: Protesters Plan To Encircle Parliament Building

Sofia, 7 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Our Sofia correspondent reports opposition protesters plan to encircle the Bulgarian parliament tomorrow with "human chains" as the next step in mounting protests against the Socialist government, and in support of the opposition demand for early parliamentary elections.

For the first time, the anti-Communist trade union "Podkrepa" says it will join the protests. "Podkrepa" leader Konstantin Thentchev told reporters today that "the only way out of the current crisis is to remove the Socialist Party from power." The trade union appealed to its members to take an active part in all protests of the Bulgarian opposition. "Podkrepa" is one of Bulgaria's two major labor unions.

Bulgaria's state television reported that one of the biggest anti-government demonstrations in years was held in Plovdiv yesterday. The state news agency BTA estimated 30,000 people took part in the protest against Bulgaria's governing socialist party.

Delegations of opponents from surrounding villages and towns joined the rally and a march through Bulgaria's second-largest city. The demonstrators demanded the government call early parliamentary elections in the country.

In Sofia, students gathered in front of the Socialist Party's headquarters, and also demanded early elections. Demonstrations against the socialist government have been going on across Bulgaria for the last four days.

The opposition is blaming the government for the country's current economic crisis, which has resulted in large increases in the cost of basic goods and the devaluation of the country's currency.

Similar protests are planned tomorrow in the Black Sea port city of Burgas.