SOFIA: Tens of thousands of protesters rallied across Bulgaria on Sunday to denounce austerity measures and corruption plaguing the country, just days after the right-wing government was forced to resign.
More than 10,000 protesters marched in downtown Sofia under the slogan "End to illusions, civil action every day!"
They shouted "Mafia!" and "All parties out!" outside parliament and the presidency, waving white-green-and-red Bulgarian flags.
President Rosen Plevneliev appeared briefly before the protesters, thanking them for demonstrating peacefully, but was greeted with boos and jeers.
He said he was willing to meet with trade unions and civil groups to discuss the crisis.
"What's the use of this financial stability when we are as poor as church mice," an 80-year-old pensioner told AFP.
The Black Sea city of Varna, where the nationwide daily rallies against high electricity bills and deepening poverty began two weeks ago, saw its largest demonstration on Sunday, local media reported.
Between 20,000 and 40,000 protesters blocked traffic along key boulevards in the city, calling for the resignation of mayor Kiril Yordanov and denouncing "the economic domination of the mobsters" in the city.
They burned an effigy outside the headquarters of the local electricity utility monopoly, Czech Energo-Pro.
About 3,000 protesters also gathered in the Black Sea city of Burgas and between 6,000 and 10,000 joined the demo in Bulgaria's second-largest city of Plovdiv in the south, media reports said.
Rallies were held in numerous other towns across the country.
The protests that have swept the European Union's poorest country over the past two weeks were sparked by anger over mounting electricity bills.
They quickly grew into wider frustration against poverty, corruption and led to the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, whose right-wing government has frozen the salaries of public employees and pensions for the past three years in a bid to maintain macroeconomic stability.
Borisov tabled a shock resignation Wednesday after rallies turned violent, with several dozen people injured and two men setting themselves on fire. One of them died and the other remains in hospital in critical condition.
Plevneliev is due to dissolve parliament by the end of this week and appoint a caretaker cabinet, with snap elections expected in early May.