Prime Minister Boiko Borisov resigned in February after countrywide protests highlighted by photographer Plamen Goranov, who had demanded the Varna city council and mayor resign, setting himself on fire.
Since then, five other Bulgarians have died in self-immolations, all apparently putting a fiery exclamation point on the country's economic problems, The New York Times reported Friday.
The country has been beset by corruption, rising prices, declining pensions and joblessness. Yet despite Borisov's resignation, many Bulgarians say they despair because the former prime minister's party is slightly favored in Sunday's balloting, so they expect little to change.
Three days after Goranov set himself on fire, one of the objects of his protest, Varna Mayor Kiril Yordanov, resigned. Protesters had accused him of being a puppet of an organization known as TIM, which a U.S. diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks charged was involved in various illegal activities such as racketeering, prostitution and drug smuggling.
Yordanov denies any involvement with TIM, and the organization says it has done nothing illegal. Zlatimir Zhechev, a board member of one of TIM's holding companies admits the organization is one of the country's biggest economic forces.
Pavel Popov, an acquaintance of Goranov's, said as a result of the self-immolation "people stopped being afraid to express the problem: TIM. Even some of the parties are now talking about how TIM should be restricted."