Bulgarian President Rumen Radev has accused the center-right government of endangering the survival of the country by failing to tackle endemic corruption amid a scandal over water shortages that cost Environment Minister Neno Dimov his job.
Radev said in a nationally televised address on February 4 he was "withdrawing my confidence" in the government of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, in a mainly symbolic act that carries no constitutional effect.
The president in Bulgaria has a largely ceremonial role with few actual powers, but he can use the office to attempt to sway public opinion.
"This government and administration are leading to the collapse of the state and depriving us of our future as a nation," said Radev, a former air-force commander who was backed by the Moscow-friendly opposition Socialists.
"Today, we are witnessing an acute crisis in governance at all levels, a lack of will to reform and fight corruption."
Borisov dismissed Radev's criticism as "direct interference into the independence of the authorities."
He told reporters that Radev, who has been a frequent critic of the prime minister, is "looking for confrontation with the government.... We haven't worked together on any topic, so I don't feel harmed from not having his support."
Borisov's center-right government on January 29 survived a tight no-confidence vote called by the opposition over the water crisis, the fourth such attempt to bring down the government in three years.
Borisov returned to power in 2017 for his third term since 2009, vowing to wipe out graft and bolster economic growth in the European Union's poorest member state.
The country has experienced steady economic growth under Borisov, but his government has also been criticized for slow progress in the fight against corruption and a perceived failure to hold corrupt officials and businessmen accountable.
The European Commission has slammed Bulgaria over its record in the areas of rule of law and white-collar crime.
Former President Rosen Plevneliev, a vocal Kremlin critic, suggested there was a connection between the pro-Russian president's accusation and "a war on the government to stop it from joining" the euro single-currency zone.
Political tensions in the country intensified when Environment Minister Dimov resigned from his post on January 10 after he was criminally charged with deliberate mismanagement of water supplies in a western region of the country.
Prosecutors accuse him of providing water supplies to industrial users even when he had been informed that the water in a dam -- the only source of drinking water for the town of Pernik and surrounding area -- had dramatically decreased. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Separately, the head of the Bulgaria's Gambling Commission resigned after being detained in connection with an investigation into gambling tycoon Vasil Bozhkov over allegations of serious financial violations in the industry.