Bulgarian government expected to survive fourth confidence vote

SOFIA Fri May 9, 2014 6:03am EDT

GERB party leader Boiko Borisov reacts as he arrives for a news conference in Sofia May 16, 2013. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

GERB party leader Boiko Borisov reacts as he arrives for a news conference in Sofia May 16, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stoyan Nenov

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SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's Socialist-led government is expected to survive a confidence vote in parliament, its fourth in seven months, called for on Friday by the opposition ahead of European elections.

The main opposition GERB party, led by former Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, called the vote, accusing the government of failing to start the South Stream pipeline project.

The future of the 2,400-km (1,490-mile) pipeline to carry gas from Russia via the Black Sea to Europe, avoiding Ukraine, has been cast into doubt since Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region. Bulgaria, almost entirely dependent on Russian energy supplies, would be a major beneficiary of the pipeline.

"Today, we will file a no-confidence motion against the government over the energy sector," Borisov told reporters.

"Mainly in connection with the failed South Stream project ... They said 10 times in a year they were beginning construction. It was in January, then February, March. Now it is to happen in June. Why?"

Last month, South Stream Bulgaria's chief executive Igor Elkin said the project would go ahead as planned and construction in Bulgaria would start in June.

The coalition of the Socialists and the ethnic Turkish MRF party is two seats short of a majority in the 240-member parliament but enjoys the unofficial support of the nationalist Attack grouping, which has 23 deputies.

It has survived two no-confidence votes over its investment policies in October and another one over its failure to deal with an influx of thousands of Syrian refugees in February.

Parliament has yet to announce when the vote will take place but it must be held within a week of its submission.

Tens of thousands took to the streets last year in anti-corruption protests against Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski's government. The protests have since died down but the government's precarious position has stripped it of the clout to introduce major reforms such as rooting out corruption in politics and cleaning up a slow and inefficient judiciary.

The no-confidence motion must be backed by at least 121 lawmakers to succeed. GERB has 94.

"It's only a pre-election move and the chances of success are very, very slim," said Andrey Raychev, an analyst with pollster Gallup.

The center-right GERB party has a 1.7 percent opinion poll lead over the ruling Socialists ahead of the EU vote. The next parliamentary election is scheduled to take place in 2017.

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; editing by Matthias Williams and Janet Lawrence)

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