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Friday 23.02.2018 | Name days: Haralds, Almants

Bulgaria president calls May election after protests

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Bulgaria’s president on Thursday, February 28, called for a new political culture that would prevent citizens being «robbed» and «lied to» as he named an election date of May 12 to try to stem a surge of popular discontent.

Prime Minister Boiko Borisov quit last week after nationwide protests against high electricity prices – the final straw to many citizens in the European Union’s poorest country, who have begun to despair of any improvement in living standards or governance.

The president said he wanted the next parliament to focus on passing strong laws against monopolies – one of the protesters’ demands – and full liberalization of the electricity market, to give consumers greater choice.

He also urged political parties to include more ordinary citizens in their electoral lists.

While Bulgaria has avoided the debt or deficit problems of many of its peers, maintaining a currency peg to the euro, economic growth is sluggish and unemployment has risen to almost 12 percent, Reuters reported.

The average wage is just 400 euros a month and pension less than half that, so electricity prices – although among the EU’s lowest – bite particularly deep, particularly in winter when many people use it to heat their homes. Some Bulgarians heat only one room of their apartments and live in that throughout the winter, when temperatures can fall to -15 Celsius (5 F).

Demonstrations by tens of thousands of Bulgarians have already forced some concessions including a promise that electricity firms will be forced to cut prices by 8 percent. Whoever wins the election will be under considerable pressure to spend in order to raise a standard of living that is less than half the EU average.

The President said an interim government, which will probably be appointed next week, would aim for stability by sticking to the 2013 budget, which foresees a deficit of 1.3 percent of GDP, and implementing previous commitments such as a 9 percent increase in pensions from April.

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