Parliament Friday accepted the resignation of Socialist Premier Andrei Lukanov, formally removing from office the last remains of Communist rule.
The labor newspaper Trud, meanwhile, quoted President Zhelyu Zhelev as saying that in talks leading to the premier's resignation, political parties also agreed that new parliamentary elections should be held in May."During these consultations it was the common opinion that the Grand National Assembly should be retained until March," Zhelev told Trud. "Afterward it should disband and the elections should take place in May."
Lukanov, 52, whom many Bulgarians associate with postwar communism, announced his resignation Thursday under unrelenting popular pressure and massive street demonstrations. He said his successor would not be
a member of the Socialists, the renamed Communist party.
Tens of thousands of people celebrated Lukanov's resignation in Sofia Thursday night. This morning, the city appeared to be returning to normal. There was no evidence of the four-day strike that helped bring Lukanov down, or the protests that had snarled traffic.
Lukanov told Parliament that the agreement among political parties that led to his resignation provided the country of 9 million people with another chance, "which, if missed, may prove the last one."
Bulgaria is facing its worst economic crisis since World War II. In his last week before resigning, Lukanov had pushed through an austerity budget that would substantially raise many state-controlled prices.
"Even though I am stepping down, my economic and social program has no alternative," Lukanov told the Grand National Assembly.
"I have not resigned under pressure from the streets, but for the benefit of Bulgaria's unity," he said.
Lukanov's Socialist Party is the former Communist Party, renamed last spring after 45 years of uncontested rule.
Of 317 deputies present at the parliamentary session, 258 voted in favor of Lukanov's resignation, 43 were against and 16 abstained.
Lukanov said political leaders had agreed that a new coalition government be formed soon and that his successor should not belong to his own party or the main opposition alliance, the Union of Democratic Forces.
It was not clear when the new premier and his Cabinet would be announced, but sources said it likely would be next week.
High-placed sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said likely candidates were Ginyo Ganev, the deputy chairman of parliament, or Krastyo Petkov, head of the main Confederation of Independent Trade Unions.
Petkov said in a radio interview that his union, which did not go on strike this week, nevertheless would stay prepared to strike because only some of its demands were met by Lukanov's resignation.
The union said it wanted guarantees on the makeup of the new government, a framework of laws for economic reform and crisis-management programs.
The current parliament, which has a Socialist majority, was elected in June on the understanding that it would serve for a minimum of a year.