Varna mayor resigns after man sets himself on fire

Goranov died of his injuries on Sunday.

Varna mayor resigns after man sets himself on fire

World Bulletin / News Desk

The mayor of the Bulgarian city of Varna resigned on Wednesday in the face of public pressure after the death of a man who set himself on fire there last month, the latest politician felled by protests that have already toppled the government.

Plamen Goranov, a 36-year-old artist, became the symbol of protests against low living standards when he doused himself in petrol and set himself alight on Feb. 20 to demand the resignation of Varna Mayor Kiril Yordanov.

Goranov died of his injuries on Sunday.

The protests and resignation highlight issues of governance, rule of law and corruption still plaguing Bulgaria, the European Union's poorest member, six years after it joined the bloc.

Yordanov served 13 years as mayor of Varna and protesters accused him of improper ties with a powerful group of businesses that they say exerts control over Bulgaria's third largest city, which lies on the Black Sea coast.

Yordanov denied any wrongdoing and said he resigned under public pressure because his reputation had been damaged.

"The events are too hot to allow us to make a sober assessment," he told reporters.

The wave of protests that have rocked Bulgaria over the last month has left it in political limbo, facing early elections in May that will almost certainly result in a parliament split between factions unwilling to work together.

That has raised questions over whether it can maintain tight fiscal policy, needed to maintain a currency peg to the euro, particularly given the economy grew only 0.8 percent in 2012 and could be damaged by the uncertainty.

Many in the country of 7.3 million blame rampant corruption and inappropriate links between political elites and business for stifling development and the rule of law. The average salary is 400 euros ($520) a month and pension less than half that.

Bulgaria is excluded from the EU's passport-free Schengen zone and its justice is subject to Brussels monitoring because of graft concerns and the country is ranked second-worst in the bloc for corruption by watchdog Transparency International.

Hundreds of people attended a memorial service on Wednesday in the Black Sea city for Goranov, dubbed "the Bulgarian Jan Palach" after the Czech student who set himself on fire in 1969 in protest at the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia.

Goranov was one of three people who set themselves on fire since the demonstrations started last month, bringing down the austerity minded government of Boiko Borisov.

"Plamen will burn in the souls of all (Bulgarian) rulers," one of the mourners told state radio BNR, queuing in front of Varna city hall to pay tribute. A journalist has proposed a statue of Goranov on the spot where he set himself alight.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 06 Mart 2013, 15:16