Bulgarian cabinet quits en masse

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The Independent Online
SOFIA (agencies) - The Bulgarian government resigned yesterday in the face of mounting criticism over its privatisation programme, the government press office was quoted as saying on national radio.

The cabinet voted unanimously to resign at a closed-door meeting, the press office said. The resignation will not become effective, however, until it has been approved by parliament, due to reconvene on Wednesday. The centrist team of the Prime Minister, Lyuben Berov, which took office in December 1992 and which parliament handed a vote of confidence on 26 May, had already intimated it would step down next September to open the way for early elections.

The government had been hoping to complete negotiations with the London Club of creditor nations on halving Bulgaria's foreign debt of some dollars 7.8bn ( pounds 5.1bn).

As well as facing a welter of criticism over privatisation, the cabinet had also come under fire for failing to stem rising crime and to deal with unrest in the army.

Mr Berov has had a rocky road since taking office, narrowly surviving six no-confidence votes. A non-partisan technocrat, he has managed to make some progress on the economic front, including a restructuring of much of the country's large foreign debt and the recent conclusion of loan accords with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. But chronic infighting among competing political parties in the fractured parliament has repeatedly undermined government efforts to carry through post-Communist economic reforms.

The work of the government was further hindered by Mr Berov's ill health. He underwent heart surgery last April.

Mr Berov, 68, was chosen to head the government as a compromise candidate to end a stalemate in the parliament after the previous, minority government of the Union of Democratic Forces was forced to resign in October 1992.

Neither the staunchly anti-Communist Union nor the Socialist Party of former Communists has a majority in parliament, meaning a small party representing Bulgaria's Turkish minority plays a crucial role. Its withdrawal of support for the Union government led to its fall.

Despite its difficulties, Mr Berov's cabinet has survived longer than any other since the Communists were forced to cede power in 1989.

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