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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
SOFIA/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– Bulgaria’s new Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski has begun his first full day in office with a difficult task to help overcome social and political tensions in what is the European Union’s poorest member state. Parliament approved him and his cabinet late Wednesday, May 29, ending a three-month long political stalemate.
The 53-year-old Oresharski won support to head the government with 120 out of 217 lawmakers backing him. But the others were opposed, or not even present in the divided 240-seat parliament.
In a separate vote, legislators also approved the Cabinet itself — a 15-member government of technocrats supported by the Socialist Party and a mainly ethnic Turkish party, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.
Oresharski’s administration, which was immediately sworn in following the vote, comes after sometimes deadly protests against poverty and corruption ousted the center-right government of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov in February.
At least six people burned themselves to death in acts of desperation, though the country’s powerful Orhodox Church and other denominations pleaded to citizens not to commit suicide and recently prayed for hope.
“Do not take your life under any circumstances. There are other ways to solve problems than through monstrous death,” said Bulgaria’s Christian Orthodox Church leader, Patriarch Neophyte, recently.
In comments monitored by BosNewsLife, the patriarch urged people to “not fall prey to the lack of hope but seek strength in God.”
Despite the turmoil Borisov’s GERB party still won tight the early elections on May 12. However it failed to find partners to govern in an extremely polarized legislature, leaving the second-placed Socialists to name the new prime minister.
Yet, governing won’t be easy for Oresharski. With just one seat short of a majority in parliament, his government will need to rely on the support of the unpredictable far-right Ataka party to pass legislation.
In a statement the finance professor recognized that Bulgaria was in his words “in a deep institutional crisis, continuing economic depression and worsening disintegration of society.”
Unemployment stands at 14 percent and Bulgaria’s average wages are with 400 euros ($520) the lowest in the EU, prompting many Bulgarians to leave in search for a better life.
Bulgaria’s population has declined from a peak of over 9 million in 1989 to just over 7.2 million this year, according to official estimates. Some areas lack an adequate population to develop in a country already struggling to provide reliable electricity and running water to all its citizens.
Realizing he faces an uphill battle, Oresharski urged legislators to seek a “maximum public consensus on the necessary urgent measures for stabilization, economic recovery [and] strengthening of the institutions.”
He has already been compared to Italy’s ex-Prime Minister Mario Monti because of his reputation for fiscal discipline. And much like Monti, Bulgaria’s government leader is promising to bring stability, economic growth and a normal business environment to Bulgaria.
That commitment has been welcomed by Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev: “I know that no politician finds it easy to work here with public trust so low and that’s why I respect his decision to bear the responsibility of becoming prime minister at such a difficult period for the nation,” he said.
The prime minister has pleaded for “solidarity in a society shaken by despair and lack of prospects.”
But with a divided parliament and social tensions, it remains unclear if and for how long consensus on the future of the troubled Balkan country can be achieved.
(BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key general news developments from especially, but not limited to, (former) Communist countries and other autocratic states impacting the Church and/or other compassionate professionals).
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