Bulgarian ruling party vows to stay in power after violent protests

SOFIA, Sept 3- Bulgaria’s coalition government will not bend to pressure and resign after one of the largest anti-government protests in the past two months turned violent late on Wednesday, a senior member of the ruling GERB party said. Bulgarians have been rallying daily, largely peacefully, since early July, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko…

SOFIA, Sept 3 (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s coalition government

will not bend to pressure and resign after one of the largest

anti-government protests in the past two months turned violent

late on Wednesday, a senior member of the ruling GERB party

said.

Bulgarians have been rallying daily, largely peacefully,since early July, demanding the resignation of Prime MinisterBoyko Borissov and Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev, accusing themof failing to combat high-level corruption.

“After last night’s excesses we will not resign,” seniorGERB party member Toma Bikov told the parliament.

“If we do that it would mean that any next government couldbe brought down by people from the criminal world,” he said.

Protesters accuse three-times premier Borissov, 61, ofweakening state institutions to the benefit of powerful tycoons,keeping Bulgaria the European Union’s poorest country.

On Wednesday, about 200 protesters and police officers wereinjured in clashes at which some demonstrators threw small bombsand firecrackers at heavily-protected police officers whocordoned off the square around the parliament and dispersed therally.

Earlier in the day demonstrators hurled eggs, apples andgarbage at officers and shook police vehicles in front of theparliament. Police used pepper spray and said some of theprotesters had also used an unknown gas substance against them.

Some 126 people were arrested, half of whom had criminalrecords, the head of the Sofia police said, adding 80 policeofficers were injured.

Some protesters accused police of failing to properlyprotect the rally and allowing football hooligans to mix amongthe crowd. Protesters blamed the hooligans for the small bombs.

Human rights group Bulgarian Helsinki Committee said it hadreceived numerous complaints that police officers had usedunwarranted force against peaceful protesters, including ajournalist, who had identified himself as such.

The European Commission commented on the protests, sayingthat any use of force by authorities against protesters mustonly be proportionate and democratic countries must ensure theright to peaceful demonstrations.(Reporting by Tsvetelia TsolovaEditing by Alexandra Hudson)

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