Bulgarian parliament evacuated after night under siege

SOFIA -- MPs, ministers and journalists were evacuated on Wednesday from the parliament building in Sofia, Bulgaria, where they spent the night under siege.

Protesters clash with police in front of the Bulgarian parliament (Beta/AP)
Protesters clash with police in front of the Bulgarian parliament (Beta/AP)

The building was surrounded by anti-corruption protesters, Reuters is reporting.

The months of protest began over utility price hikes, but "spread to accusations that private interests control state institutions," said the news agency, and noted that although Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007, "it has struggled to live up to its governance standards."

The blockade of the parliament was sparked by a government decision to borrow $676 million, raising the budget deficit to two percent of gross domestic product.

European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding "departing from diplomatic usage, lent open support to the protest movement on Wednesday," Reuters reported, and quoted her as telling society groups in Sofia: "My sympathy is with the Bulgarian citizens who are protesting on the streets against corruption."

Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski's cabinet has refused to quit and about 500 to 1,000 pro-government supporters have held daily counter-demonstrations in Sofia and about 200,000 people have signed a petition supporting him, the news agency said.