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Bulgaria president urges parties to heed protestors


Bulgaria's president won acclaim from thousands of protestors rallying for a seventh day on Thursday against the political establishment in the EU's poorest country, after he urged political leaders to heed their demands.

"I see a civil protest demanding something very basic -- justice and the rule of law. People want political representation... They must be heard," Rosen Plevneliev had said earlier after crisis talks with party leaders.

"Nothing good awaits us if there is no real change in politicians' actions," he added.

The president's statement prompted a round of applause by over 3,000 people gathered Thursday evening on the square between the presidency and government buildings.

The protestors -- draped in Bulgarian flags and carrying balloons with captions that read "Peaceful protest!" and "Being here is a matter of honour" -- interrupted their shouts and whistle-blowing to face the presidency and clap for a minute.

Between 7,000 and 10,000 people have joined the rallies in Sofia every evening since last Friday -- just four months after demonstrations prompted the resignation of the last government -- and three weeks into a new administration.

The latest protests began in reaction to the appointment of a media mogul as security chief -- since withdrawn -- but have turned into demonstrations against the Socialist-backed government and the political class in general that people see as corrupt.

"It is obvious that the protests of the people do not come down to one candidature or another or they would not be still in the streets," Plevneliev, whose role is largely ceremonial, said Thursday.

"The fact that this happens for the second time in just five months is a clear sign that, again, there is something deeply wrong in the actions of the political parties.

"These people will not be told to go home," he also warned.

Political leaders however failed to agree on a solution.

The conservative opposition party GERB, ousted by rallies four months ago, pressed for a new snap vote while the ruling Socialists and their supporters continued to back Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski's technocrat cabinet.

Plevneliev has already said he lost confidence in Oresharski's cabinet, sparking accusations by the parties that he had exceeded his duties.

"I will not stop fighting for stability," Plevneliev countered on Thursday, adding however that he was ready to back any sensible government measure or bill in the interest of the people.

Plevneliev urged the four parties in parliament to start work on changes to the electoral code to open the way for better representation and new, smaller political parties entering the legislature at the next elections.

Even before Thursday, an Alpha research poll showed the president was the only politician whose popularity had risen amid the recent social and political tensions.

The poll gave him a popularity rating of 44 percent in mid-June, compared to 32 percent in mid-March.