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Bulgarian Gov't Resigns After Violent Protests

By VESELIN TOSHKOV

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) â¿¿ Elena Hristova, a 73-year-old retiree, had always paid her bills on time.

But when she received an electricity bill that amounted to 60 percent of her monthly pension, she'd had enough. So she joined a recent anti-government protest and did something she never had before: she burned an unpaid bill.

"I didn't have much money to live on" she said.

Hristova was among tens of thousands of Bulgarians who protested for days in cities across the country, some violently, in outrage over rising energy costs, corruption and a general economic decline in what is already the European Union's poorest nation.

As a result, the center-right government of Prime Minister Boiko Borisov resigned on Wednesday.

"Our power was handed to us by the people. Today we are handing it back to them," Borisov told lawmakers in Parliament before formally submitting the resignation of his Cabinet. "I cannot stand looking at a bloody Eagles' Bridge," he added, referring to the busy intersection in downtown Sofia where police and protesters had clashed Tuesday.

"Every drop of blood is a shame for us."

Parliament Speaker Tsetska Tsacheva said legislators will vote on the resignation Thursday, though that appears to be largely a formality.

Early elections are now expected in April or May.

Tens of thousands of protesters across the country hit the streets last weekend to protest rising electricity and heating bills. Shouting "Mafia," they accused their leaders of ties to crime. Some threw eggs and tomatoes at government buildings in Sofia, the capital.

Hristova was among hundreds who burned utility bills in public, accusing the government of failing to improve their falling living standards and demanding the expulsion of the three foreign-controlled power distributors that control the local market: CEZ and Energo-Pro from the Czech Republic, and Austria's EVN.

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