Bulgarian police arrested six people Wednesday as MPs braved around 1,000 booing anti-government demonstrators to return from their summer recess and to the ongoing political crisis in the EU's poorest country.
Metal fences and a heavy police presence separated the protesters from a separate group of several hundred pro-government supporters, although a small group managed to break through at around 11:00 am (0800 GMT). No major incidents or injuries were reported.
Daily demonstrations against the government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski that began shortly after it took office in May had subsided somewhat during the summer break that began on August 4.
The technocrat Oresharski, installed as a non-partisan premier by the Socialists following elections in mid-May, has resisted calls to resign, pushing through a series of measures aimed at appeasing the protesters.
Many of the demonstrators are fed up with Bulgaria's entire political class, seeing them as being in cahoots with powerful oligarchs and indifferent to the plight of ordinary people in the former communist country.
In February the previous right-wing government of Boyko Borisov resigned after nationwide protests against poverty, corruption and unpayable energy bills that saw several people die after setting themselves on fire.
Backed by President Rosen Plevneliev, the demonstrators have also received unprecedented support from several foreign ambassadors, with Britain's Jonathan Allen urging lawmakers in a special statement on Tuesday to heed calls for new morals and more transparency and accountability.
The rallies, which have been organised by civil groups via social media, were backed for the first time on Wednesday by Borisov's conservative opposition GERB party and a newly-formed right-wing coalition, the Reformist Bloc.
Most of the pro-government demonstrators meanwhile said they were organised by the Socialist party, prompting analysts to note that the protests were turning into a battle between the two major political camps.