Bulgarian opposition seeks vote against government

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SOFIA, Oct 15 (Reuters) Bulgaria's rightist opposition asked parliament today to hold a vote of no-confidence against the Socialist-led government, accusing it of failure to tackle a nationwide teachers strike.

The vote is unlikely to topple the three-party ruling coalition, which holds 167 seats in the 239-strong parliament, but could dent further its eroding popularity ahead of local elections later this month, commentators said.

Thousands of teachers began an indefinite strike on September 24, paralysing the Balkan country's schools for over three weeks to press for doubling of their salaries.

The industrial action has increased pressure on the government to boost living standards in the poorest European Union member country.

''The irresponsible behaviour of the government has created the most serious crisis in education in the last 17 years,'' the no-confidence motion said.

''The government's failure to solve the problems has led to the unprecedented teachers' strike,'' it said. Reforms so far include only school closures and jobs cuts but do not offer measures to raise the quality of education, it said.

The government has offered a 30 per cent increase in teachers' wages and says a higher jump would require job cuts or else could accelerate inflation and jeopardise the economy.

Social workers, doctors, pensioners and miners also demanded higher pay earlier this year. Bulgarians feel disappointed with the lack of progress in raising living standards and fighting corruption and organised crime after joining the EU in January.

The Black Sea state of less than 8 million has the lowest incomes in the European Union with average monthly salaries of 291 dollars.

The no-confidence vote is likely to take place next week. The coalition government has survived three other votes since it came to power in August 2005.

REUTERS SKB BD1632

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