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Bulgarian Government Resigns After Violent Protests


Riot police clash with demonstrators during a protest in front of the parliament in Sofia.
Bulgaria's government has resigned, following days of often violent nationwide protests.

The protests were sparked by soaring electricity prices but then they turned against the government, which demonstrators accused of failing to stem widespread corruption and improve living standards.

Fourteen people were injured as protesters clashed with police in the capital, Sofia, on February 19. Protesters chanted "mafia" and "resignation" and threw empty bottles and flares at police who used truncheons to disperse them.

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov told parliament on February 20 his government did not want any more violence.

"Every drop of blood, dear colleagues, is a stain on us. And I can't watch fences around the parliament," Borisov said.

"Power is not our goal, and we would not benefit from that power if we have to guard ourselves from the people. I came today to tell you that in person."

Despite the government's resignation, protests continued. About 1,000 opponents of the prime minister and several hundred of his supporters gathered in the center of Sofia, kept apart by heavily armed police. There were no immediate reports of violence.

Parliament is expected to accept the resignation on February 21.

Blaming Electric Company

In an attempt to calm public anger, Borisov promised on February 19 to slash energy prices and also punish foreign-owned energy companies. On February 18, he dismissed the finance minister.

His promise to revoke the electricity-distribution license of the Czech company CEZ was quickly denounced by the government of the Czech Republic, a fellow EU member.

With an average monthly salary of just 800 levs ($550), Bulgaria is the poorest EU member.

Borisov, a former bodyguard of Bulgaria's communist-era leader Todor Zhivkov, came to power in 2009 on pledges to root out corruption and raise living standards.

Borisov's center-right GERB party still leads in opinion polls, but barely ahead of the opposition Socialists.

The resignation of the government was seen by some as a move on the part of Borisov to retain legitimacy and secure a political role for himself in the future.

The protests were the biggest in 15 years and came just months ahead of general elections scheduled for July. The parliamentary elections are now expected to be moved forward to April.

In the meantime, the president was expected to appoint a technocratic caretaker government.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and
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