SOFIA, BULGARIA, NOV. 23 -- Bulgaria's Socialist government barely survived a no-confidence vote today, and the nation's principal opposition coalition announced that it would boycott the legislature indefinitely.
Prime Minister Andrei Lukanov's Socialist Party, composed mostly of members of the communist party that ruled Bulgaria until last June, maintained its grip on power by a 201-to-159 vote of the 400-member Grand National Assembly. Lukanov, claiming that the vote proved he had broad support, vowed to retain his leadership position.
But Petar Beron, leader of the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), said his party would not take part in the legislature for an undefined period and would consider walking out for good.
Beron called Lukanov's refusal to step down "proof that the communists have learned nothing from the past."
The Socialist Party has been paralyzed since June, when voters made it the only communist party to retain power after democratic revolutions swept Eastern Europe in 1989. With an unsteady 210-seat legislative majority, it has largely been unsuccessful in gaining passage of economic and political reforms.
The Socialists have sought to form a coalition with the UDF, but the opposition has spurned them, instead seeking favor with an increasingly impatient electorate.
Late Thursday night, the legislature passed an austerity budget in a vote that the UDF boycotted.
Although the prime minister said he now has the mandate he needs to rule effectively, he faces a general strike on Monday, organized by the 500,000-member trade union confederation known as Podkrepa.
Adding to the government's woes, nationalists in the northwestern town of Razgrad have declared it an independent republic in a show of protest over a new law allowing ethnic Turks to reclaim their Turkish names without any legal procedure. Under former dictator Todor Zhivkov's assimilation policy, Turks were forced to adopt Bulgarian names.