Anti-government protests erupted in Bulgaria demanding the resignation of the incumbent corrupt government and “against a mafia model of governance.” The protests, which have been going on for three consecutive weeks, saw thousands of Bulgarians and Opponents shouting “Mafia” and “Resign” outside government headquarters in Sofia, later marching to the parliament.
The protests were prompted when Hristo Ivanov, a small politician from the centrist party, was prohibited from entering a public beach on the Black Sea Coast by officers from National Protection Service (NSO). The NSO officers were reportedly guarding a mansion belonging to Ahmed Dogan, former head of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms party (DPS), and a Bulgarian oligarch.
Ivanov accused Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borissov (in a Facebook broadcast) of permitting the stay of Dogan – an allegedly extremely influential and powerful person – in Bulgaria, on public property while using taxpayer money for the encroachment and security provided to him, despite Dogan not occupying a formal government post.
PM Borissov stated the NSO should not guard individuals like Dogan and rejected all calls of his resignation, as a response to Ivanov’s accusations two days later. “We will remain in power because the opposition will break the country,” he said in a Facebook live.
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev, a vocal critic of the incumbent government and a member of opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), correspondingly demanded the resignation of Borissov and Chief Prosecutor Ivan Geshev and accused them of “links with oligarchs.” Following this, heavily armed prosecutors raided President Radev’s offices – suspected to be led by Geshev. The president’s legal affairs and anti-corruption secretary, his security, and an advisor were detained for a probe into ‘influence-peddling and disclosure of state secrets.’
The raid influenced civil protests of thousands of people in the capital, Sofia, voicing their anger against the government’s exposed affiliation, dependence, and protection of elite businessmen and former politicians. Demonstrators blocked most of the country’s major intersections and many gathered in front of the presidency demanding the resignation of Borissov and his government. The exposed videos of police brutality and arrests amidst the protests further intensified the cause of these demonstrations.
President Radev said in a televised address to the nation, “Turning the government into a mafia-type structure has pushed freedom-loving Bulgarians of all ages, regardless of their political affiliations, to raise demands for respect of the law. There is only one way out of the current situation — the resignation of the government and the prosecutor general.”
While Borissov refused the overwhelming demands of resignation, he further announced the termination of finance, economy and interior ministers to counter the allegation of the party’s dependency on the influential individuals like Dogan. This move failed to appease the citizens as expected, as thousands of protestors continued to call out for Borissov’s ouster.
The inherent corruption in Bulgaria’s integral government severely affects the economy of the country as it remains the European Union’s (EU) poorest, even after thirteen years of its joining. Bulgaria is ranked as the most corrupt of the twenty-seven nations in the EU, according to Transparency International’s corruption perception index.
Feature Image Via Canva