About 30,000 demonstrators rallied to back embattled Premier Andrei Lukanov on Saturday, one day after he narrowly survived a no-confidence vote. Government opponents blocked a main boulevard in protest.
Fighting broke out between government supporters and opponents, but hundreds of police intervened to prevent serious clashes.Lukanov told the crowd Saturday that he was "no coward" and accused the opposition of trying "to establish a new political monopoly." Lukanov is among a group of former Communists who toppled longtime ruler Todor Zhivkov last year and oversaw parliamentary elections.
The no-confidence vote Friday followed months of wrangling between the former Communists and the opposition on how to turn around the moribund economy and end the country's political paralysis.
The government's failure to stop the economic decline and improve supplies of scarce foods and consumer goods has led to growing demands for Lukanov's resignation from frustrated citizens.
An official survey broadcast on television Saturday said Lukanov had a 50 percent approval rating. Last month, 71 percent supported him.
Despite surviving the confidence vote, Lukanov's government faces more pressure by the main opposition alliance, the Union of Democratic Forces, which has called for a mass demonstration in Sofia on Sunday.
The opposition trade union confederation Podkrepa has called a general strike for Monday if Lukanov does not resign by then, despite a warning by the prosecutor general that political strikes are not permitted.