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Bulgaria: Parliamentarians Continue Boycott

By Krassimir Lakov

Sofia, 7 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - Bulgaria's parliament failed to convene for a second day in a row today as a boycott by deputies of the majority Socialist Party continued.

Socialist lawmakers are protesting an agreement between their party leaders, opposition parties, and President Petar Stoyanov to hold early legislative elections this April. The agreement was reached on Tuesday after more than a month of opposition street protests over Bulgaria's continuing economic crisis. The Socialists won the last parliamentary elections in 1994 but are widely blamed for failing to implement necessary reforms.

The Socialists' boycott is preventing passage of crucial new election laws, including updated legislation on campaign finances. Because of the collapse of Bulgaria's currency, each candidate is now allowed to spend the equivalent of only about $20 on their campaign.

News reports say the economic outlook in Bulgaria continues to worsen, with food prices rising, wages shrinking and fuel supplies at a minimum. Long lines were reported yesterday at food and tobacco shops, while many petrol stations were closed.

Adding to the misery, a flu outbreak forced hospital officials to cancel operations in Sofia and in Bulgaria's second largest city, Plovdiv. Health officials said more than 36,000 cases of the flu had been registered in the two cities.