Bulgaria protests show sharp political divide


A student holds a red star, symbol of the former communist regime, during an anti-government protest in center of Sofia on November 15, 2013. The protest followed months of street tensions in the European Union's poorest country and came few days after students padlocked Sofia University demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski's embattled Socialist-backed government.



Bulgarians took to the streets on Saturday in rallies both for and against the Socialist government.

It is estimated that between 20,000 to 30,000 people took part in the protests and rallies with about half in support of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski.

An opposition demonstration gathered in the city of Plovdiv, organized by the conservative party that resigned from power last February.

The Socialist government took office in May but has been dogged by accusations of corruption, which have sparked mass protests.

Its tenuous majority may not last the four-year term it was supposed to serve.

In October, students set up blockades at numerous universities to protest the government.

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Oresharski has said he will remain in power, continuing reforms that his government says will aid the poor and raise incomes in the European Union's poorest country.

Protesters against the government want an early election held due to what they claim is incompentent leadership.

The center-right government resigned after similar protests that focused on corruption and rising energy prices.

Bulgaria joined the EU six years ago and has remained its poorest member despite hopes of reform.

The average salary remains about 400 euros per month ($540) and the European economic crisis has increased unemployment.

Gross domestic product growth in the developing nation is less than two percent.

The ongoing protests reflect both the unhappiness with the economic situation and political elites, as well as the sharp political divisions in the post-communist country.

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