UPDATE 1-Bulgarian parties set Oct 5 as date for general election

Fri Jun 27, 2014 8:47am EDT

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By Tsvetelia Tsolova

SOFIA, June 27 (Reuters) - Bulgaria set October 5 as the date for a snap parliamentary election on Friday, putting an end to weeks of political uncertainty that has coincided with two bank runs that have raised fears for the country's financial stability.

Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski's minority government agreed to resign earlier this month after the biggest party in his coalition, the Socialists, performed badly in May's European elections.

Compounding the government's political headaches, the central bank last week had to take over Bulgaria's fourth largest lender after jittery depositors withdrew their savings. A second bank suffered a similar run on Friday, prompting the central bank to warn of a systematic attempt to destabilise the country through attacks on the banking system.

"We will propose to the president the date of October 5 for holding the parliamentary election," Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev told a news conference in the parliament.

Seeking the consent of the president, a largely ceremonial figure, is a formality.

Flanked by leaders of the other political parties, Stanishev also said there was cross-party support for measures being undertaken by the central bank and other state institutions to guarantee the stability of Bulgaria's financial system.

In power for barely a year and dogged for much of that period by street protests over endemic corruption in the state apparatus, the government has struggled to revive sluggish economic growth and stem a sharp drop in foreign investment.

IMF HELP?

Opinion polls suggest Boiko Borisov's centre-right GERB party, whose last government was toppled in February 2013 by street protests over high energy prices, will emerge as the largest party in the new parliament.

However, Borisov may struggle to form a stable government, political analysts say. His party was also the largest after the last general election but was unable to find allies, paving the way for Oresharski's minority coalition.

Borisov said on Friday he believed Bulgaria should immediately seek the help of the International Monetary Fund to help restore calm in the economy.

"This is the only option. The next budget should be prepared by the Fund," Borisov told reporters in parliament.

Asked why Bulgaria needed IMF help, he said: "Mostly for expertise so that the country can calm down."

He added that the outgoing coalition government would probably stay in office until the end of July to allow time to launch talks with the IMF and to raise new debt totalling up to 6 billion levs ($4.2 billion).

Bulgaria is the European Union's poorest member state and one of its most corrupt, but has been financially stable since a 1996-97 crisis wiped out much of its banking sector and led to the introduction of a currency board that pegs the lev currency to the euro. It has one of the lowest debt levels in the EU. (Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Writing by Gareth Jones; editing by Matthias Williams)

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