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Bulgarian Opposition Parties Targeted in Two Bomb Blasts

July 19 (Bloomberg) -- Bombs exploded at the offices of two Bulgarian opposition parties before a no-confidence vote in Prime Minister’s Boiko Borissov’s minority Cabinet this week.

The blasts went off around 4 a.m. today at the headquarters of the Order, Law and Justice party and an office of the Democrats for Strong Bulgaria party in central Sofia, Police Chief Valeri Yordanov said by phone today. The explosions damaged the front doors and windows in both buildings, he said. No casualties were reported.

“The timing and the amounts of explosive in each case indicates the bombs were aimed to intimidate rather than kill anyone,” he said.

The parties plan to support a no-confidence vote later this week after Borissov’s government failed to win European Union approval to join the Schengen zone, which allows passport-free travel, amid accusations it hasn’t curbed crime. Borissov has rallied the support of the nationalist Attack party and several independent lawmakers, ensuring he has majority backing.

The European Commission will release tomorrow its regular monitoring report on Bulgaria’s and Romania’s efforts at fighting crime and corruption. After that, countries opposing the two Black Sea nations’ Schengen entry, including France, Germany and The Netherlands, will make a decision on their admission.

“Given the timing, the bombs are aimed against the government and the country, rather than the offices,” Borissov said in an interview with TV7 television station today. “This kind of negative publicity badly affects investment.”

Election Campaign

The blasts also took place during election campaigns ahead of an Oct. 23 vote for president and city councils. The Order, Law and Justice party, which has seven lawmakers in the 240-seat Parliament, set up 100 billboards throughout Bulgaria, saying “I will fire Boiko Borissov,” the party’s leader Yane Yanev told reporters last week.

The EU has repeatedly urged Bulgaria to do more to fight organized crime and corruption since the Balkan country joined the 27-nation bloc in 2007. Borissov’s Gerb party came to power in June 2009, pledging to jail corrupt politicians and crime groups, leading to the jailing of some police officers and mayors.

The police staged widely publicized arrests of allegedly corrupt ministers and several crime groups involved in kidnappings, smuggling and racketeering, which did not result in convictions.

Past Arrests

Many of the arrested individuals, including former Defense Minister Nikolai Tsonev, have been cleared of most of the charges and are suing the police for brutality and violation of human rights during the arrests. That prompted the opposition to demand the resignation of Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, who also manages Gerb’s election campaign.

On Feb. 10, a bomb exploded at the offices of Galeria, a Bulgarian weekly newspaper that is critical of Borissov’s government, damaging neighboring buildings. Ten previous bombs in the past decade have exploded at politicians’ offices, homes and cars without injuring anyone, according to police data.

“The prime minister’s allegations that the explosions are self-inflicted are ludicrous,” Ivan Kostov, leader of the Democrats for Strong Bulgaria and former prime minister, told reporters today. “The government has 24 hours to find the perpetrators. Otherwise it will confirm our belief that it is completely helpless in enforcing law and order. The mobsters entered Bulgarian politics and brought their methods along.”

To contact the reporter responsible for this story: Elizabeth Konstantinova at ekonstantino@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

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