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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 November, 2004, 20:39 GMT
Bulgarians march for higher wages
Demonstrators shout anti-government slogans
Tight fiscal policies have angered many Bulgarians
Thousands of people in Bulgaria have demonstrated against the government's economic policies, which they say are driving down living standards.

Much of the centre of the capital, Sofia, was paralysed by a rally attended by about 15,000 people.

Crowds shouted for the government to resign, and for changes to the country's strict fiscal policies.

Trade unions called the march to coincide with the 15th anniversary of communist ruler Todor Zhivkov's fall.

Unhappy anniversary

"Fifteen years ago we stormed the streets in hope for a better life," union leader Konstantin Trenchev told the Associated Press, referring to the demonstrations against communism.

"Now we want our hopes back," he added.

Demonstrators called for government resignations and increases in wages and public spending on health and education.

"People have stood up and looked the ruling powers in the face," Zheliazko Hristov, of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions, told Reuters.

"We expect the government to correct its policies."

A miner protests under a banner bearing the slogan '15 Years Later'
Bulgarian miners joined the protest to complain about low wages
Todor Zhivkov resigned on 10 November 1989 after 35 years in power.

The country's current prime minister, former king Simeon Saxe-Coburg, won office in 2001, but has been accused of failing to deliver on a pledge to raise living standards.

Following advice from the International Monetary Fund, the government has sold off state firms and cut benefits paid to workers.

The average wage in Bulgaria is around 150 euros (105) per month, one of the lowest in Europe.

Official figures claim that 12% of the work force is unemployed, although trade unions insist the true figure is higher.

The government faces re-election next year, and hopes to lead Bulgaria into the EU in 2007.

Timeline: Bulgaria
01 Apr 04 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Bulgaria
06 Oct 04 |  Country profiles


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