SOFIA (Reuters) - A bomb blew up the car of a popular Bulgarian journalist late Thursday in Sofia, coinciding with a visit of European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and three members of the Commission to the Balkan country, police said.
The explosion caused no casualties but the incident is the latest blow to the center-right government's efforts to put an end to the climate of impunity in one of the most corrupt EU member states ahead of local and presidential polls on October 23.
Television journalist Sasho Dikov, known for his critical attitude to the cabinet, said he had never received any threats.
"(I relate the blast) to individuals who think it can be a useful tool in the pre-election campaign," Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov was quoted as saying by news agency Focus.
The ruling GERB party swept to power in 2009 on promises to restore the rule of law and improve Bulgaria's image but has yet to put any major figures behind bars.
It is the latest in a string of small explosions and civil unrest this year, which has highlighted GERB's poor record in improving the economy and cracking down on organized crime.
"The attack is formally against the government, but it is in its essence a very bad signal for the country as a whole," said sociologist Antoniy Galabov.
"(It is meant) to discredit the cabinet and create the feeling that it is not capable of dealing with its task."
At the beginning of the year, a bomb exploded in front of the office of an opposition newspaper.
The government said at the time that the blast, which took place hours before the visit of a group of EU Commissioners, was meant to disgrace the cabinet.
In July, small explosions rocked the offices of two right-wing opposition parties the day before Brussels was to issue its annual report on Bulgaria's progress in fighting endemic graft and organized crime.
Two men were arrested shortly after the blasts in front of the parties' offices over suspicions they planted the explosives.
In a joint news conference with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov Thursday, Barroso praised the government's work and said Sofia needed to continue the fight against crime and to press ahead with the reform of its judiciary system.
(Editing by Maria Golovnina)