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Bulgaria's biggest party boycotts parliament as protests rage

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Bulgaria's biggest political party said Tuesday it was boycotting parliamentary sittings amid public outrage over the appointment of a media magnate to a top security post.

The decision by the conservative GERB party adds pressure on the three-week-old ruling coalition, and fuels fears of a new political crisis as fresh anti-government protests are expected for a fifth straight day across Bulgaria.

"We will not show up in parliament anymore," GERB leader and former prime minister Boyko Borisov said Tuesday.

Thousands of Bulgarians have poured into the streets in EU's poorest country since Friday to protest the controversial appointment of the inexperienced but well-connected lawmaker Delyan Peevski as chief of the powerful DANS security agency.

Peevski is publicly understood to be behind a media empire of newspapers and a television, officially owned by his mother.

Even though Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski has reversed the decision, public anger has boiled over, and protesters are now demanding the resignation of his Socialists-backed technocrat government.

The protests come just months after anti-poverty rallies brought down Borisov's government.

Protesters are also seeking changes to the electoral code to allow new faces in politics and remove a political establishment viewed as corrupt and easily swayed by powerful business interests.

Changes sought include making it easier for smaller parties to enter parliament and relaxing the rules for independent candidates to stand for election.

Despite the boycott, GERB was ready "to return to the legislature during separate sessions debating the new electoral code as this is what the people wanted," Borisov said.

The Socialists-backed Oresharski, who drew ire through his nomination of Peevski, has so far refused to step down.

On Tuesday, Borisov sought to put further pressure on Oresharski.

"This government must go as soon as possible," he said.

Oresharski's cabinet was formed after inconclusive snap elections on May 12, as GERB, which won 97 out of 240 seats in parliament, failed to find partners to form a government.

The current coalition is backed by the Socialists and Peevski's Turkish minority MRF party, which have a combined majority of 120 seats.

The fourth faction in the legislature -- the highly unpredictable ultra nationalist party Ataka -- has also hinted it was ready to give the cabinet its silent backing by abstaining in key votes.

Parliament requires a quorum of 121 lawmakers to pass legislation, which means it can still function without GERB.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130618/bulgarias-biggest-party-boycotts-parliament-protests-rage