Socialists Stay In Bulgaria

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SOFIA, Bulgaria: Bulgarians are finding out that democracy can be an unwieldy thing. Citizens have staged 22 days of protests in a bid to un-elect the now reviled Socialists, and elected a president, Petar Stoyanov, who they hoped would find a way to ease the Socialists from power. But when it came to the formation of his Parliament, Stoyanov Tuesday came up against the country's constitution, which requires him to offer the mandate of government to the largest party. The Socialists accepted. There is hope, however, that their new rule will be conciliatory. Party leadership has since offered continued negotiations with the opposition on replacing the country's current interior minister, and TIME's Theodor Troev reports from Sofia that several Socialist leaders have already proposed passing their governing mandate to the opposition party, possibly to form a coalition government. Ivan Kostov, head of the main opposition, said his party would end its 21/2-week boycott of parliament in hope of a compromise. "If there is the will and consensus, Parliament can endorse in a short term the necessary laws, and early elections can be called." Kostov said. But impatient leaders of Bulgaria's three major trade unions have called a nationwide strike beginning Wednesday that may turn urgency into desperation. To union workers already struggling with low wages and skyrocketing prices, political protest is a luxury they can ill afford. "The situation is the worst ever, maybe in the history of Bulgaria," said Elena Altimirska, a student. "At the moment, the intelligentsia are at these rallies," but when the workers strike, she said, "then it will be very bad for everybody."