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Bulgaria: New President Works To End Crisis

Sofia, 20 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Bulgaria's new president Petar Stoyanov says he will begin immediate consultations today on ways of ending the country's political and economic crisis.

Stoyanov, who was sworn in yesterday, formally takes office Wednesday. He plans talks today with business and industry chiefs on reforms. He will also consult with the various political forces to find a way out of the political deadlock caused by the ruling Socialists' refusal to agree to early elections. He says any new government needs the support of all sides.

The Socialists -- the former Communists -- have offered a new ballot by year's end and a second Socialist cabinet in the meantime. The opposition objects to any new government led by the Socialists.

Speaking after being sworn in yesterday, Stoyanov said politics in Bulgaria can no longer be run by what he called the "political elite." He said people protesting in the streets are desperately poor because in the last four years Bulgaria has seen only an imitation of reform linked with corruption and arrogant disregard of public opinion. He said it is time for change.

At a rally later in Sofia, Stoyanov was wildly cheered by tens of thousands of people chanting "Elections!" He told them he is convinced the only alternative to ending the crisis is new elections.

But Socialist party chairman Gerogi Parvanov insists his party has the constitutional right to form the next government and says it has no intention "of abstaining from our mandate." The opposition plans more protest actions today.

Interior Minister Nikolai Dobrev says as Prime Minister he would implement urgent measures for the country's financial stabilization, and work for the immediate introduction of a currency-stabilizing "currency board" proposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Dobrev has been designated by the governing Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) to succeed Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, who resigned last month. But Dobrev has yet to receive a mandate to form a government, despite assertions by the BSP that it has the constitutional right to form the next government.

President Stoyanov has said he will give the BSP a new mandate if political parties cannot promptly reach agreement on a plan to end Bulgaria's political crisis. But, noting a growing split in the BSP, our Sofia correspondent today reports that there are -- for the first time -- indications Dobrev might not have sufficient support in Parliament to form a new government.

Speaking last night, Dobrev outlined an anti-crisis program which includes measures to strengthen Bulgaria's collapsing banking system, radical reform of fiscal policy, and tax changes to improve collection, while offering incentives to business and individuals.

Dobrev pledged to cut spending from the state budget, decrease the deficit, and reduce what he called the "parasite" government bureaucracy. He also outlined reforms in education and health care, two sectors especially hard hit by the economic crisis.