Bulgaria's economic misery deepens as Socialists, opposition clash
January 15, 1997
Web posted at: 3:05 p.m. EST (2005 GMT)
From Correspondent Christiane Amanpour
SOFIA, Bulgaria (CNN) -- Protesters have been on the streets
of Sofia for 10 straight days. Taxi drivers take their
symbolic hour-long strikes to the steps of Parliament. And
Bulgaria's main labor unions are considering nationwide
"Throw the red rubbish out," the demonstrators chant. They
blame the ruling Socialists for continuing old Communist
policies that have brought Bulgaria to the brink of economic
"It's true we have not done all we could," said Bulgarian
Socialist Party Chairman Georgi Parvanov. "But we
Socialists have a new team now and we are the party of
But the opposition Union of Democratic Forces insists that it
is the party to implement market reforms
"We will be much bolder we will privatize the economy, close
loss-making businesses and be much more decisive," said union
Chairman Ivan Kostov.
The daily street-party protests called by the opposition are
meant to press the Socialist government into early elections.
Both sides appeared to have softened their stances on
Wednesday, nearing the possibility of talks aimed at bringing
about those early elections.
But independent observers say a constant face-off between the
two main parties with no national objectives and no results
means the country just lurches from crisis to crisis. The
whole political system must change, they say.
In the transition from Soviet satellite to democracy,
Bulgaria lags behind most of its east European neighbors,
poorer even than their poorest neighbor, Albania.
"The income is twice less than Albania," said political
analyst Alexander Tomov. "In 1992 it was two times more, so
compare the evolution of the economy in these six years."
Local currency loses ground every day. Bulgarians are taking
their savings from banks and buying building materials as a
better bet. With inflation at 300 percent, only people with
dollars and other hard currency will survive.
And worse times loom ahead. Bulgaria needs international
other financial aid, but it will be shut out of the game if
it defaults on its international debt payments in the spring
-- and analysts worry Bulgaria may become the first European country
to do that.
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