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Tuesday, 10 June 2014 | MYT 8:50 PM

Bulgaria's ruling party leader calls for July election

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria should hold a snap election as early as July, the head of the ruling Socialist party said on Tuesday, bringing the government's demise one step closer after its poor performance in European Parliament elections in May.

The Socialists have bowed to pressure both from their own coalition partner and the main opposition GERB party to hold an early poll, which would mark the second government collapse in two years in the European Union's poorest state.

Socialist leader Sergei Stanishev also called for the government to resign immediately after parliament holds another no-confidence vote this week. That proposal needs the agreement of Bulgaria's other main political parties.

The vote is expected to be held on Thursday, and the government is likely to survive it.

"Political instability is the biggest danger. Bulgaria does not need a government that is on life support," Stanishev said. "If there is enough political will, early elections in July, by the end of July, are a possible and realistic option."

The exact date for an election has not been fixed. That decision ultimately rests with Bulgaria's president. The Socialists said last week they would start consultations with other parties on agreeing a date.

"Quick consultations with other political parties should be held now," Asen Gagauzov, an official and former minister for the Socialists, told Reuters. "If there is no consensus for elections in July, the government may as well not resign this week."

The opposition GERB would like an early election to be held at the end of September or early October. The ethnic Turkish MRF, the Socialists' junior ally in the ruling coalition, would prefer November or December.

The Balkan state has been hit by political instability and street protests since last year, and Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski's government has relied on the support of hard-line nationalists to survive a series of confidence votes.

As a result, the government has been unable to push through a series of reforms, such as tackling graft, cleaning up the judiciary and overhauling its inefficient education and healthcare sectors.

Economic growth has also remained sluggish, and foreign direct investment fell sharply last year.

The Socialists won just 19 percent of the vote in the May 25 European election. GERB won 30 percent.

Analysts say that no party is likely to emerge as an outright winner in the coming election, which could saddle Bulgaria with another unstable coalition government.

(Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Larry King)


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