Support for Bulgaria ruling party wanes as austerity bites

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 11, 2012 10:32 AM
Support for Bulgaria ruling party wanes as austerity bites

SOFIA (Reuters) - Support for Bulgaria's ruling GERB party has fallen as the European Union's poorest nation struggles under austerity measures, an opinion poll showed on Wednesday.

High unemployment, low incomes and a lack of decisive steps to uproot widespread cronyism and corruption led to a 4.5 percentage point drop in the popularity of Prime Minister Boiko Borisov's center-right party in June compared with May, according to the poll by state-funded pollster NPOC.

Support for the opposition Socialists rose fractionally to 18.0 percent from 17.9 percent, according to the survey of 1,000 people conducted from June 27 to July 3.

Hundreds of young environmentalists protested in June against changes in forest law, accusing the cabinet of supporting the interest of a few big investors.

A recent 13 percent hike in electricity prices, even as public salaries and pensions remain frozen for a fourth consecutive year, has angered Bulgarians, who already have the lowest living standards in the European Union.

Labour Minister Totyo Mladenov said on Tuesday the jobless rate in Bulgaria was 10.8 percent in May, while government officials and analysts expect it to stay in double digits over the next two years.

The newly formed right-wing political party of former EU Commissioner Meglena Kuneva is gaining momentum with 7.5 percent support, compared to 5.5 percent in May.

Kuneva's Bulgaria For The Citizens party was officially launched earlier in July and plans to contest elections in June 2013.

The backing for the ethnic Turkish MRF party fell to 6.4 percent.

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov and Tsvetelia Tsolova)