Sofia: Bulgaria’s government quit on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov announced, after days of sometimes violent protests sparked by sharply higher electricity prices expanded into nationwide demonstrations.
The surprise announcement paves the way for elections that had been scheduled for July in the European Union’s poorest member to be brought forward.
“It is the people who put us in power and we give it back to them today,” Borisov told parliament. He said he would not be part of any interim government.
“I will not participate in a government where the police beat up people or where threats for protests replace political dialogue. If the street wants to govern the country, let it do it,” the 53-year-old said.
Borisov, a right-wing ex-bodyguard, had on Tuesday ruled out resigning.
Bulgaria has been shaken over the past 10 days by protests that were first focused on soaring electricity prices but then grew into nationwide demonstrations against the right-wing government in general.
Clashes left dozens of people wounded and scores were arrested as demonstrators fought running battles with riot police and vandalised government buildings, police cars and shops in the capital Sofia.
In the latest disturbances late on Tuesday, 15 demonstrators and two policemen were injured and 25 people were arrested in Sofia. The previous evening 11 people including five police were hurt.
A 36-year-old man doused himself with petrol and set himself on fire early on Wednesday outside city hall in Varna in the east where the first protests erupted, media reports said. He was hospitalised with 80 per cent burns.
Another man, who was mentally ill, died after setting himself alight in the central city of Veliko Tarnovo on Monday.
Borisov attempted to take the heat out of the crisis by announcing on Monday the sacking of the unpopular finance minister and on Tuesday saying he would revoke the licence of Czech electricity firm CEZ.
Non-Eurozone Bulgaria’s economy struggled to grow in 2012, expanding by just 0.1 per cent in each of the past two quarters because of the global slowdown and as foreign investment has slumped.
Official unemployment hit 11.4 per cent in December but trade unions say the real figure is closer to 17 or 18 per cent of the workforce. Inflation meanwhile hit 4.4 per cent last month.
Voters are also angry at what they see as Borisov’s failure to stamp out corruption and cronyism despite repeated calls by the EU to clamp down on graft since joining the bloc in 2007.