Some of the leaders of recent nationwide protests invited to take part in President Rossen Plevneliev’s “public council” walked out of its first meeting on March 1, saying that they could not sit at the same table with those they were fighting, while the leader of a trade union federation also quit, objecting to the composition of the council.
Plevneliev’s office invited about 35 representatives of protesters, business and trade union organisations, professional associations, environmental conservations groups and NGOs take part in the “public council”, which is intended to have input into the work of the forthcoming caretaker government to be set up as the next significant move in the political crisis that has followed the resignation of Boiko Borissov’s government.
Ahead of the council meeting, there was skepticism in some quarters about it.
Before the appointed 2pm starting time, a small group representing diverse strands within the protests argued outside the Presidency about the council.
After the meeting started, protest leaders Yanko Petrov, Angel Slavchev and Doncho Dudev walked out, saying that they would “not negotiate with oligarchs”.
Dudev said that as a representative of the protesters, he did not want to sit at the same table as Ognyan Donev, the billionaire head of the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria.
“I will not sit at the table with those with whom we are fighting,” Slavchev said. “We are going out to fight until the end,” he said.
Plamen Dimitrov, head of the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria, objected to the presence on the council of political scientists and sociologists. Dimitrov said that these people represented no one but themselves.
Protesters also objected to the presence of Podkrepa trade union leader Konstantin Trenchev.
“Who is Trenchev? Where have you been for the past 23 years?” one of those outside the Presidency office at 2 Dondoukov Boulevard shouted through a megaphone. (Trenchev first rose to prominence in Bulgaria at the time of the public protests and round table process during the political upheavals of the 1990s.)
Local news agency Focus, reporting from outside the Presidency, said that it was difficult to understand the protesters’ stance “because they express different opinions and argue with each other”.
Ahead of the meeting, protesters reiterated a demand for the National Assembly not to be dissolved but to continue to sit to reform electoral laws to enable direct geographical constituency-based voting to enable citizens who are not linked to political parties to be elected to Parliament.
Opening the meeting, Plevneliev said that the participants would be future members of the public council, working with the caretaker government.
“The protests are a clear signal of the problems in the country, but not a tool to solve them,” Plevneliev said.
He had wanted the consultations to take place as soon as possible but protesters had not had enough time to organise. There would be time, he said, “because the interim government will not happen today or tomorrow, but in two weeks”.
The public council would be divided into groups advising caretaker government ministries on policies.
Plevneliev said that the public council should not be allowed to become “a talkshop or politicised”.