SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov sacked three ministers on Friday over a bus accident in which 17 people died, saying politicians needed to take responsibility for a crash that provoked an outcry over the poor state of the country’s roads.
Borissov demanded the resignations of Transport Minister Ivaylo Moskovski, Regional Development Minister Nikolay Nankov and Interior Minister Valentin Radev.
“We accept all political responsibility and therefore we resign,” Radev told a news conference, also attended by Nankov. “We obviously have not managed to organize things in a way to avoid such an accident.”
More than 20 people were also injured in Saturday’s crash in northwest Bulgaria, in which the bus fell into a ravine near the town of Svoge.
Hundreds of residents of Svoge, about 40 km (25 miles) north of Sofia, have protested daily since the accident to demand an overhaul of the road section where the accident happened. They say different state authorities neglected signs that the road was not repaired properly.
Bulgaria, a country with of population of 7 million, has the worst road accident fatality rate in the European Union alongside its Balkan neighbor Romania. Last year 678 people were killed in accidents on Bulgarian roads.
A series of road and rail crashes in recent years have prompted public protests over the government’s handling of transport safety and control over public procurement deals for road maintenance.
The opposition Socialists have called on Borissov’s cabinet to resign, saying the accident is a direct consequence of corrupt practices.
Analysts say the resignations are not likely to damage the stability of the coalition government but expect political tensions to rise with the opposition pushing for an early election next spring.
Prosecutors are investigating the accident, over which the bus driver has already been charged.
Bulgarians have long complained that successive governments have failed to enforce basic safeguards for some roads and railways.
Corruption is a serious problem in the EU country. Bulgaria has declared its political will to combat graft, but failed to put high level officials behind bars on corruption charges.
Additional reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by David Stamp