SOFIA Nov 16 Tens of thousands of opponents and
supporters of Socialist-led government rallied on Saturday,
underscoring the widening political divide and uncertainty in
the European Union's poorest country.
Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski pledged to stay in power
and push with reforms to help the most disadvantaged and raise
incomes at a rally organised by the Socialists and their junior
coalition partners, the ethnic Turkish MRF party in Sofia.
In a separate rally in Bulgaria's second largest city,
Plovdiv, thousands of supporters of the main opposition GERB
party demanded government's resignation and early election,
accusing the government of incompetence and graft.
The Socialist-led cabinet took office in May after a GERB
centre-right government resigned following mass protests over
high utility bills and corruption. GERB won most votes at the
May poll, but failed to form a government.
The cabinet enjoys a shaky majority with the unofficial
support of nationalist Attack party. Most analysts say it will
not carry out its full four-year term.
Many Bulgarians had hoped that joining the EU six years ago
would bring prosperity to the former communist state and put an
end to rampant corruption and organised crime. They are
disillusioned with the entrenched political elites, which they
believe work only for their own benefit.
The country is yet to put a senior government official
behind bars for graft, while the average salary of 400 euros
($540) per month is the lowest in the 28-member bloc.
Five months after the early election, Bulgarians remain
divided on whether the government should stay in power or
resign, opinion polls show. Political analysts said Saturday's
rallies can deepen the divisions.
"These demonstrations underscore the deepening confrontation
between the political rivals. There is a possibility of
intensification of the divisions in society," Parvan Simeonov, a
political analyst with Gallup told private television Nova TV.