Largest Bulgarian party will not try to form government

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's largest party GERB declined on Thursday to try to form a new government, opening the way for the rival Socialists to put together a technocrat administration and end a political impasse.

The center-right GERB won most seats in a May 12 election in the European Union's poorest country but cannot command a majority, as other parties are shunning it after its resignation during protests against low living standards in February.

"Every day, every hour is important for Bulgaria to have a government, so please allow me to return the mandate now, so that you can continue with your consultations," GERB leader Boiko Borisov told Bulgaria's president.

With every fifth Bulgarian living under the poverty line and unemployment at an eight-year high, the country needs a working government to draft a 2014 budget and negotiate EU funds to 2021 - key to reviving the economy and creating new jobs.

The Socialists, aware of simmering public anger with politicians, have proposed a government made up of technical experts, headed by a non-partisan former finance minister.

With allies from the ethnic Turkish MRF, the Socialists are one seat short of a majority but analysts say the proposal is likely to win parliamentary backing with support from or abstentions by individual MPs from GERB and the nationalist Attack.

President Rosen Plevneliev is expected to ask the Socialists later on Thursday to try to form a government.

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov and Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by Andrew Roche)