Bulgarian Socialists face fourth no-confidence vote

SOFIA Fri May 16, 2014 6:37am EDT

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SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's Socialist-led government is expected to survive a confidence vote in parliament next week, the fourth in seven months filed by the opposition.

The main opposition party, GERB, filed the motion on Friday. It accuses the government of failing to overhaul the country's opaque energy sector and conduct its South Stream pipeline project in line with EU rules.

The future of the 2,400-km (1,490-mile) pipeline would carry gas from Russia via the Black Sea to Europe, avoiding Ukraine, but its future is unclear since Russia's annexation of Crimea. Bulgaria, which depends almost entirely on Russian energy supplies, would be a major beneficiary of the pipeline.

"It is no secret that the energy sector is on the brink of collapse," GERB deputy Dimitar Glavchev told reporters. "The motion is also a chance for an European debate, as we believe there are breaches of EU rules linked to South Stream project".

The Socialists have denied any wrongdoing linked to South Stream. They have argued that the rising debt of state power companies were caused by the policies of a GERB-led government, which was toppled last February over high electricity bills.

The ruling coalition is two seats short of a majority but has the unofficial support of the nationalist Attack party. It survived two no-confidence votes over its investment policies in October and another over its failure to deal with an influx of Syrian refugees in February.

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

The center-right GERB party has an opinion-poll lead of 1.7 percent over the ruling Socialists before elections to the European Parliament, which will be held May 22-25. They are seen as a test for the Socialist-led government, whose first year in office was marked with street protests over rampant corruption.

(Reporting By Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Larry King)

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