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Bulgarian deputy prime minister Simeonov resigns

Bulgarian deputy prime minister Simeonov resigns
FILE PHOTO: Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borissov looks at Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov during a swearing-in ceremony in the parliament in Sofia, Bulgaria May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov -
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SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgarian deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov resigned on Friday after several weeks of street protests over remarks he made about disabled rights activists.

Simeonov, who oversaw economic and demographic policy, is one of the leaders of the United Patriots, an alliance of nationalist parties that together form the junior coalition partner in the centre-right government of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov that took office in May 2017.

Simeonov had called the activists "shrill women" and suggested that they were "speculating" with their sick children. He apologised a week after his comment became public and only after a meeting of the coalition partners.

Borissov himself had apologised on Simeonov's behalf but also said he could not seek his resignation without putting the government at risk, as the ruling coalition has just a one-seat majority in parliament.

Simeonov's party is expected to continue to support the government.

The opposition Socialists and the ethnic Turkish MRF party had also demanded Simeonov's resignation and boycotted sessions in parliament.

"I am handing in my resignation following the continued media campaign against me," Simeonov said late on Friday in the government building.

"This campaign is damaging the government's rating and authority and is becoming an obstacle to its normal work. This is something I cannot afford,".

"It is not just about me, it is not about the party I lead, it is about the ruling government, which I think is extremely successful," he said.

Borissov has accepted his resignation, the government press office said.

The opposition has stepped up pressure on Borissov's government ahead of elections for the European parliament and local elections next year.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova and Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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