Bulgarians block central Sofia in anti-government protest

SOFIA (Reuters) - Protesters set up tents on a major crossroad and in front of the government building early on Thursday, vowing to keep the center of the Bulgarian capital blocked until the government of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov resigns.

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Several thousand mostly young Bulgarians have been rallying daily in Sofia since early July, accusing three-times premier Borissov of failing to fight endemic corruption that erodes the rule of law and benefits powerful local tycoons.

Demonstrations are also taking place in bigger cities.

61-year-old Borissov, who has dominated Bulgaria’s political life in the past decade, has vowed to stay in office until next March when regular elections are due.

Borissov sacked key ministers to show his cabinet is not working under the influence of private interests, but the reshuffle failed to quash deeply-rooted public anger with wide-spread corruption in the European Union’s poorest country.

With a slogan “Please excuse the inconvenience, the country is under repairs,” dozens of protesters sat in shifts in front of 10 tents perched on the asphalt at the Eagle Bridge crossroad throughout Thursday, blocking traffic in central Sofia, home to some 2 million people.

Two large tents and summer umbrellas blocked the central road in front of the government building, where thousands gathered to rally for a 22nd consecutive night late on Thursday, seeking also to oust the country’s chief prosecutor.

“I am glad there are people who are committed 24/7 to the protests and pulled out tents. Extreme measures are obviously needed to get our voice heard,” said Biliana Kantardzhieva, a 30-year-old marketing specialist.

Some 59% of Bulgarians say they support the protests, but only 25% believe they can succeed, according to a public opinion survey, based on 800 telephone interviews and published on Thursday by independent pollster Gallup International, which is not associated with Gallup Inc.

The survey also showed that 54% do not want snap polls now, while 42% are in favour, the survey showed.

“There is a clear will for a change, but also some reluctance for an early election,” the pollster said.

Additional reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Alexandra Hudson