SOFIA, BULGARIA, NOV. 26 -- Workers demanding the resignation of the fragile Socialist government took part today in a general strike in most Bulgarian cities. The action drew patchy support but marked the first such protest in the country's history.
Officials of the trade union confederation Podkrepa, which called the strike Sunday night, said 20 mines and hundreds of shops and factories had closed as a result of the strike. But most public transportation was in operation today, airports were open and industrial action at crucial power stations and oil refineries was only symbolic. The most important work stoppage was at the television station, where nothing was broadcast but cartoons and strike bulletins that appeared to be anti-government propaganda. The evening news closed with a cartoon of Prime Minister Andrei Lukanov, colored red, trying to gag a blue television. Red is the color of the Socialists and blue of their political opposition, the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF).
The strike culminates several weeks of maneuvering by the UDF inside and outside parliament to force Lukanov to resign. Lukanov's Socialist Party, formerly Bulgaria's Communist Party, won a majority in three elections in June but has been under pressure from the UDF, which refuses to accept the legitimacy of the government.
Lukanov made a television appeal to workers Sunday night, asking them to ignore the strike call, which he said was illegal and would not help fill Bulgaria's bare shops.
Konstantin Trenchev, Podkrepa's president, told 50,000 anti-government protesters in Sofia that he called the strike to protest the government's failure to assure minimal living standards. He warned that 1 million of Bulgaria's 9 million people would suffer from hunger this winter. "When a government cannot assure a basic standard of living, it must resign," Trenchev told the crowd. "We are hungry," the protesters chanted back.