July 16, 2020 / 11:21 AM / a month ago

Bulgaria PM plans govt overhaul in face of protests

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, facing a no-confidence vote in parliament and anti-corruption protests in the streets, said on Thursday that his government must stay in place to fight the coronavirus - though he may overhaul his cabinet soon.

Demonstrators take part in an anti-government protest, in Sofia, Bulgaria July 15, 2020. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

The three-times prime minister said he would consider an “enormous overhaul” of his centre-right cabinet after the no-confidence vote next week, which the ruling party can survive with the support of a small populist party and independent lawmakers. [nL5N2EM417]

He reiterated that the anti-graft protests and calls for early polls by the opposition Socialists and President Rumen Radev were undermining the Balkan country’s chances of weathering a looming coronavirus crisis that will hit incomes and jobs hard.

“We are facing very hard months ahead... Who from those on the square has more experience than us, knows more or can do more?” the defiant 61-year-old said after a meeting with his junior coalition partners.

“We should show at the vote that the ruling coalition has its majority in parliament. And then if they want, all opposition parties need to say how they see dealing with the epidemic and financial crisis that is coming,” he said.

Borissov said on Thursday that he had asked his finance, interior and economy ministers to step down to put an end of speculation that they were under the influence of a controversial media magnate and businessman from another political party, but that he will not accept their resignations for now. [nL5N2EM60K]

Thousands of Bulgarians have been holding protests demanding the resignation of the government and the chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev over their failure to ensure the rule of law and sever links between graft-prone officials and powerful tycoons in the country.

Geshev has denied any bias in his probes and has declined to step down.

More anti-corruption protests are planned in Sofia and other major cities for the eighth day in a row later on Thursday.

Consecutive governments in the European Union’s poorest member state have pledged to put an end to a climate of impunity and impose the rule of law strictly.

But the authorities have yet to jail a single senior official on corruption charges.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Alison Williams and Hugh Lawson

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