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Bulgaria elections set for May 12

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Bulgaria's president said Thursday that early elections would take place on May 12 following Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's surprise resignation last week after the biggest nationwide protests in 16 years.

"In the current dead-end situation, it is most responsible and most honest to go for early elections ... The vote will be held on the first suitable date -- May 12," Rosen Plevneliev told parliament.

Borisov quit after two weeks of sometimes violent protests against high electricity prices, corruption, low salaries and rising unemployment in the European Union's poorest member. Three people even set themselves on fire.

The right-wing Borisov, a burly former bodyguard and police chief, was hugely popular when first elected in 2009, and his term had been due to run until July. It is unclear if he will run for premier again.

His decision to throw in the towel has failed to snuff out public anger with protesters continuing to take to the streets, booing right-wingers and Socialists alike and denouncing the whole political establishment as "mafia".

The president was expected to dissolve parliament soon and appoint a caretaker government after Borisov's GERB party and the Socialists returned a mandate to form a new cabinet. Turkish minority party MRF was expected to follow suit Friday.

"It is hopelessness that has sent people out to the streets today but the real problems stem from the failed promises of the politicians, the ineffective institutions and the lack of trust in them," Plevneliev said.

He added that these problems have been piling up all along the 23-year transition from communism.

Plevneliev promised that the people's demands would be heard and solutions offered, asking both protestors and political parties to remain calm in the meantime.

"It is not possible for all the problems to be solved at once as they have built up over a long time," he said.

"But it is necessary to undertake clear engagements on the concrete issues -- electricity and heating bills, monopolies, utility regulators, incomes, employment."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130228/bulgaria-elections-set-may-12-0