Bulgaria picks new state security boss amid protests

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's parliament picked an experienced professional on Friday to head the national security agency, in a move the new Socialist-led cabinet hopes will end daily demonstrations by tens of thousands of anti-graft protesters.

The protesters forced parliament to cancel its previous choice for the politically sensitive post - a 32-year-old media magnate and lawmaker with no experience of security issues.

Many Bulgarians had seen the attempt to install Delyan Peevski to a post with access to classified information and the power to order arrests and wiretaps as an example of powerful private interests controlling state institutions.

In Friday's vote, parliament overwhelmingly approved Vladimir Pisanchev, 50, an interior ministry veteran, to head the national security agency, though political analysts said they expected the anti-government protests to continue.

"My choice of a chairman from within the agency is motivated by the high public sensitivity of this position. My proposal marks to some degree a maintaining of the status quo," Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski told parliament.

Oresharski, who heads a fragile two-party coalition that took power less than two months ago, apologized over the Peevski affair but he has rejected calls to resign, saying this would harm economic and political stability.

Political analysts said Pisanchev's appointment is unlikely to halt the rallies, which have turned into much wider protests against graft, a lack of transparency in public institutions and shadowy ties between politicians and businessmen that deter foreign investors and keep Bulgarians' living standards low.

Bulgaria ranks as the poorest country in the 28-member European Union, which it joined in 2007, and as one of the most corrupt.

The anti-government protests are dominated by young, well-educated, Internet-savvy Bulgarians frustrated by what they see as the ineffectiveness and venality of their political class and keen to see their Black Sea nation join the European mainstream.

Recent opinion polls have shown about 60 percent of Bulgarians disapprove of the new cabinet - one of the worst ratings of any government since the fall of communism in 1989 - and political analysts say it is unlikely to stay in power long.

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov, editing by Gareth Jones)