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Bulgaria: Socialists Asked To Form Government; Unions Call General Strike

Sofia, 28 January 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Bulgaria's President Petar Stoyanov today asked the Socialist party to form a new government after his compromise plan to end the country's political crisis failed.

Leaders of the three main trade unions made good on their pledge to call a general strike if the Socialists were given a new mandate. They said workers would stay off their jobs across the country beginning tomorrow.

Stoyanov yesterday called on the Socialists to abstain from their constitutional right to form a new government while urging the anti-Socialist opposition to return temporarily to Parliament to vote badly needed laws on economic reforms.

After meeting with Stoyanov today, Nikolai Dobrev, Interior Minister and Socialist Prime Minister nominee, however made clear he will go ahead and form a new government. But he promised the government would be broad-based and will not serve "strictly party interests."

The opposition said it had accepted Stoyanov's compromise plan and that responsiblity for the crisis now lies with the Socialists. But BTA state-run news agency quotes Ivan Kostov, leader of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), as saying his party is ready to end its boycott of parliament in order to participate in adopting emergency economic measures.

Meanwhile today, the national currency -- the lev -- plunged to half its worth at the beginning of the month. Private traders now are charging 1,050 levas for one U.S. dollar but many traders were reluctant to sell their hard currencies, apparently expecting a further drop in the lev's value.