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Bulgarian president tries to break election stalemate

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev speaks during a news conference in Sofia May 15, 2013. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev speaks during a news conference in Sofia May 15, 2013. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

By Tsvetelia Tsolova

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria's political stalemate deepened on Wednesday after final results confirmed a prospective Socialist alliance with ethnic Turkish MRF allies lacking a majority, and its president warned of destabilization without a new government soon.

President Rosen Plevneliev appealed to political parties to hammer out a coalition deal after the inconclusive weekend election in the European Union's poorest member state.

"It is important to have a stable government. Everything else, new elections, would mean destabilization," he told reporters. "Bulgaria does not need new elections now. This will scare away investors."

Plagued by poverty, corruption and organized crime, Bulgaria has been in political disarray since nationwide protests forced the previous leadership from power, and it risks drifting further until a new government is formed.

A turnout of just 51 percent, the lowest since the fall of communism in 1989, drove home the deep frustration of many Bulgarians with an entrenched political elite seen as corrupt and self-interested, and unable to boost incomes.

A working government is needed urgently to negotiate EU funds for the next seven years, draft the 2014 budget and try to address popular anger over poor living conditions and high energy prices that kindled unrest earlier this year.

Political uncertainty has driven up the cost of insuring Bulgarian debt against default since last week.

It now costs $110,000 annually to buy $10 million worth of protection against a Bulgarian default using a five-year CDS contract, up from $92,000 on Friday, according to credit default swaps prices from provider Markit.

JITTERS OVER INSTABILITY

The business community worries that an unstable government forced to rely on unpredictable nationalists who demand state takeovers of companies and huge wage increases might deter investment urgently need to kickstart growth.

Plevneliev said he would start consultations on Friday with a view to convening the new parliament before the end of May.

But it was not immediately clear how the coalition would take shape as the official results showed no group would get over the 121-seat threshold needed to form a viable government.

The center-right party of former prime minister Boiko Borisov, who once served as a bodyguard to Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov, won 97 seats in the 240-strong parliament. But it has little chance of governing as other groups shun it.

Borisov's GERB party has in the past ensured a majority by getting the support of the Attack party but the nationalists have ruled it out this time around. Even if they changed their mind, their alliance would be one seat shy of a majority.

GERB has been tarnished by its fall to street unrest and its embroilment in scandals over wiretapping and illegal ballots.

The more likely government will be one formed by the second largest group, the Socialists, who have voiced readiness for a non-partisan technocratic administration to shepherd a rise in living standards and avert further unrest.

But the final results showed that the Socialists and their allies, the ethnic Turkish MRF, would also be a seat short of a majority and would need to persuade Attack, or individual legislators from either GERB or Attack, to work with them.

(Writing by Christian Lowe; editing by Mike Collett-White)

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