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Bulgarian Government Survives Fifth No-Confidence Vote Over Corruption

Protesters demonstrate outside parliament in Sofia on July 21, where daily protests have gradually dwindled in number.
Protesters demonstrate outside parliament in Sofia on July 21, where daily protests have gradually dwindled in number.

Bulgaria's center-right government has survived a no-confidence vote initiated by the opposition Socialists, who accuse it of failing to fight endemic corruption.

The July 21 vote was the fifth no-confidence motion against the coalition government since it took office in 2017.

Thousands of Bulgarians have been rallying for almost two weeks against third-term Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's cabinet and Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev, and several hundred protesters gathered outside parliament ahead of the vote on July 21, shouting "Mafia", "Resign" and "Borisov is a disgrace."

A total of 124 lawmakers voted against the motion, while 102 were in favor -- well short of a majority in the 240-seat parliament. Eleven lawmakers abstained.

Borisov, 61, was widely expected to survive the motion. He wasn't present during the vote, as he has not returned from marathon negotiations in Brussels that ended early on July 21 with agreement on a 750 billion-euro ($860 billion) coronavirus recovery package and the EU's seven-year budget.

The government coalition council, made up of Borisov's conservative GERB party and his two small nationalist partners, is expected to discuss a way out of the current political crisis later in the week, senior member Valeri Simeonov told public BNT television.

Bulgaria is the poorest and most corrupt of the European Union's 27 member states, according to Transparency International.

Borisov last week announced that three key ministers -- of finance, economy, and the interior -- had declared their willingness to resign in an apparent bid to appease public anger.

However, Borisov put off the cabinet reshuffle until after the no-confidence vote.

Borisov's third four-year term in office ends in March.

Thousands of mostly young people demonstrated for 13 days in a row in the capital against the government's perceived favoritism of powerful behind-the-scenes oligarchs.

Rallies were also held in Lovech, Haskovo, Plovdiv, Vratsa, Montana, Varna, Burgas, Kyustendil, and other cities.

The anti-corruption protests were sparked by a raid on July 9 by the Prosecutor-General's Office on the presidential office.

President Rumen Radev's legal-affairs and anti-corruption secretary and his security and defense adviser were detained for questioning and their offices searched as part of two separate probes into influence-peddling and disclosure of state secrets.

The demonstrators have condemned the raids as an attack by the government and the Prosecutor-General's Office on Radev.

However, the daily street protests and traffic blockades were beginning to lose steam, with only 3,000 participants on July 20 compared to more than 10,000 a week ago.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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