Bulgarians bring new government to a standstill
Demonstrations in nation's capital turn violent
In this story:
January 10, 1997
Web posted at: 8:10 p.m. EST
SOFIA, Bulgaria (CNN) -- Angry demonstrators swarmed around
and even into Bulgaria's parliament Friday, briefly setting a
fire in one of the rooms and vowing to trap the deputies
inside until they agreed to new elections.
Blowing whistles and burning red flags and effigies of the
ruling Socialist party (BSP), a crowd that swelled to 50,000
smashed all the windows on the ground floor of the
Renaissance-style landmark in the center of Sofia.
Late Friday evening, President Zhelyu Zhelev made a
concession to the protesters when he announced that he would
not proceed with plans to form a new Socialist government.
Police turned water hoses on the demonstrators, and bloodied
and dragged away many of them as they smashed and overturned
the cars of the deputy deputies and several jeeps sent by the
government to rescue the deputies.
Art galleries give demonstrators tea
Demonstrators blocked narrow streets nearby and pelted with
chunks of ice any Socialist deputy who tried to stop.
Those supporting the opposition to the Socialist party, which
is largely composed of former members of the Communist Party,
brought hot drinks and food for demonstrators. Nearby art
galleries handed out free coffee and tea.
President-elect Petar Stoyanov -- an opposition figure whose
election two months ago marked the collapse of public support
for the Socialists -- was overcome by tear gas while trying
to calm the crowds through a loudspeaker. He was taken away
President cuts short Paris trip
President Zhelev abruptly cut short a trip to Paris and
announced he would not form a new Socialist government, as
"Under these conditions, tomorrow I will not give a mandate
for formation of a new government," he said.
"I back the protests of the people who have been driven to
this humiliating state," Zhelev said. "In this way they are
demonstrating their dignity."
But he also said that "I do not approve of violence, and
appeal for order," and announced that he would convene the
National Security Council. The council advises the president
on internal and external security matters.
Opposition threatens nationwide strike
UDF deputies also said they had failed to reach an agreement
with the Socialists on a declaration calling for early
elections. Parliamentary approval of the motion was a key
demand of the demonstrators.
"What is happening in and outside parliament is the
justified wrath of people brought to desperation," Yordan
Sokolov, another UDF leader, told Radio Darik.
Twenty-five percent of Bulgaria's banks are in receivership
and triple-digit inflation has slashed the average income in
Bulgaria to $30 a month. Heating oil is scarce, and few can
afford it. To make matters worse, the lev collapsed Friday to
660 to a dollar. A year ago the exchange rate was 70 to a
The Socialists had been expected to form a new government to
replace Prime Minister Zhan Videnov who resigned on Dec. 21
after severe criticism of his management of the economy.
The Socialists nominated Interior Minister Nikolai Dobrev,
the party's strongman, to replace Videnov.
Snowballs drive Dobrev back inside
But Dobrev was prevented from leaving parliament by a volley
of snowballs Friday, as demonstrators registered their
disapproval with the way the Socialists have dealt with the
country's economic crisis.
Two months ago, voters delivered a powerful no-confidence
vote of their own by electing opposition candidate Stoyanov
as president with a 60-percent majority.
"The BSP which led the country to its gravest crisis in
history has no right to rule," said Sokolov.
Reporter Juliette Terzieff and Reuters contributed to this report.
Related site: Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.