Bulgarian government survives second no-confidence vote

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 17, 2013 8:15 AM
Bulgarian government survives second no-confidence vote

By Tsvetelia Tsolova

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's Socialist-led government on Thursday survived its second no-confidence vote this month, as expected, but the motion underscored the political divisions plaguing the European Union's poorest country.

The center-right opposition GERB party, which won most votes in a May election but lacked a partner to form a government, said it planned further no-confidence motions to keep up pressure on the cabinet in the hope of forcing its resignation.

The Socialists and their junior coalition partner, the ethnic Turkish MRF party, defeated the motion with 118 votes out of the 231 deputies who took part. The motion targeted their investment policies, as did the previous one held on October 2.

"We will continue to work to rebalance the development between the big city centers and the small towns," Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski told parliament after the vote.

The Socialists accuse the former GERB government of favoring large cities and more affluent Bulgarians and of neglecting the countryside and smaller towns.

Oresharski's government, which has faced daily street protests almost since it took power in May, has pledged to stay in office, arguing that new polls would only harm the economy and living standards, already the lowest in the 28-member EU.

The street protests have mostly involved younger, well-educated, urban Bulgarians angry over graft and keen to see the country adopt European standards of governance.

GERB said it would submit a new motion of no-confidence on Friday, this time against the government's culture policy.

With such moves, GERB also aims to highlight the government's dependence on the nationalist Attack party, whose hostile rhetoric against ethnic minorities such as the Roma and Turks has raised concerns among Western diplomats.

The political uncertainty, combined with endemic corruption and red tape, may further hinder the direct foreign investment Bulgaria needs to revive an economy that is expected to grow by only 0.6 percent this year, down from 0.8 percent in 2012.

The previous GERB government quit in February after mass protests over high utility bills.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)