UPDATE 1-Bulgarian parliament accepts government's resignation

Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:40am GMT

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* Early election likely, possibly by late April

* Analysts say vote could produce hung parliament, political stalemate

By Michael Winfrey and Tsvetelia Tsolova

SOFIA, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Bulgaria's parliament accepted the government's resignation on Thursday after a spate of violent protests over high utility bills, opening the way for an early election and underscoring anger in Europe over weak growth and austerity.

Outgoing Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, who had won praise from investors by cutting the Balkan state's budget deficit, is now struggling to rebuild support among voters weary of persistent poverty and graft.

Lawmakers voted to accept his government's resignation. President Rosen Plevneliev will now ask parliament's three biggest parties if they want to form a government to rule until an election due in July.

But both Borisov's GERB party and the main opposition Socialists have said they have no interest in participating in a caretaker cabinet, and analysts say that means Plevneliev could schedule an election by as early as April.

"Only a parliamentary election can show the will of Bulgarians," outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov told the chamber before the vote.

The cabinet's departure brought calm after a chaotic week of rallies against the government and foreign-owned power utilities and a threat by Bulgarian officials to strip one of them, Czech power group CEZ, of its licence.

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