Bulgarian Parliament Opens First Session Without President
VELIKO TURNOVO, Bulgaria (AP) _ Bulgaria’s first multiparty parliament in 44 years held its inaugural session today in the absence of former President Petar Mladenov, who resigned after admitting he proposed using force to crush pro-democracy protests.
The opening ceremony was held in a wood-paneled hall in this ancient Bulgarian capital, about 150 miles northeast of Sofia.
Mladenov resigned Friday under mounting public pressure for suggesting in December that tanks be used to disperse some 50,000 anti-Communist demonstrators.
His departure came less than three weeks after his party of reformed Communists won the country’s first free elections in 58 years.
Mladenov was instrumental in last year’s ousting of Communist strongman Todor Zhivkov. Prodded by popular demonstrations, Mladenov then played a key role in reforming the party, now known as the Socialist Party.
His departure has weakened the ruling Socialists and created a constitutional vacuum.
The Grand National Assembly’s first task will be to agree on a presidential candidate and on how to elect him. There is no precedent for electing a president in Bulgaria’s parliamentary history.
The 400-member parliament may either decide to elect the president or call a referendum.
The ceremonial opening session, held in sweltering heat, was adjourned after only 40 minutes and will be resumed on July 17 at the parliament building in Sofia.
The meeting was inaugurated by Yosif Petrov, at 81 the oldest deputy.
In a brief speech, Alexander Lilov, chairman of the Socialist Party, said: ″The time of the totalitarian parliament is over. Now is the time of the democratic parliament.″
But Lilov also criticized protesters.
″We are against chaos and destabilization in the country,″ he said. ″Everyone has the right to protest, but everyone has also the obligation to work.″
Police and special security forces patrolled the area outside the meeting, but there were no incidents.