SOFIA, BULGARIA, NOV. 22 -- Scuffles broke out among deputies in Bulgaria's parliament today over a vote of no confidence in the government while several thousand demonstrators outside urged Prime Minister Andrei Lukanov to quit.
Deputies from the ruling Socialists -- formerly the Communists -- grappled with members of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) for control of microphones with which to address the 400-member assembly.
The scuffles erupted after the UDF proposed a vote of no confidence in Lukanov's two-month-old government. The vote was proposed to oppose Lukanov's economic plan for the debt-burdened country, which includes steep price increases.
"This Socialist government arrived with scandal and it looks like they will leave with a scandal," UDF spokesman Alexandar Yordanov shouted as Socialist supporters tried to wrest microphones from him.
Tension mounted on the streets outside the parliament building. More than 25,000 young Bulgarians, jeering and whistling, demanded that Lukanov quit together with his government of former Communists.
"Mrs. Thatcher resigned with some dignity -- what about you, Lukanov?" one banner read, referring to the resignation of the British prime minister hours earlier.
The vote on the budget is the biggest challenge to the Socialist Party since it ousted hard-line leader Todor Zhivkov last November.
Lukanov repeated earlier vows to quit if his budget failed to get full support from all parties represented in the legislature.
"And if this happens I think it will be clear to everyone here and abroad who it was who blocked reform and whose ambitions are the main hindrance to national unity," he said.