On the 20th consecutive day of anti-government protests in Bulgaria, a man dressed in a Volen Siderov mask and wearing a straitjacket was detained briefly outside Parliament for crossing a police barrier, while inside Parliament Siderov himself was the subject of a strange rearrangement of parliamentary committees apparently intended as a symbolic – if ineffectual – “distancing” of the government from the ultra-nationalist leader.
Earlier, it had been announced that Siderov would head the committee on the fight against corruption and on parliamentary ethics, but instead it was arranged that he would head “only” the anti-corruption committee while parliamentary ethics was split off to form a joint portfolio with, somewhat bizarrely, religious affairs.
This latter committee will be headed by an MP from the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which has come under pressure from its European affiliates to distance itself from Siderov.
Some days ago, President Rossen Plevneliev described the appointment of Siderov to head the parliamentary anti-corruption and ethics committee as no less a scandal than the (now-aborted) appointment of Delyan Peevski to head the State Agency for National Security.
In other developments on July 3:
• A petition compiled by citizens requesting the lifting of the immunity from prosecution of Siderov has attracted 3121 signatures – complete with the signatories’ full names and identity numbers. It is to be sent to Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov, who constitutionally has the prerogative to request Parliament to remove the immunity of an MP from prosecution. The petition is a consequence of Siderov’s rhetoric and behaviour in recent weeks, which his critics see as inflammatory and unlawful.
• To mark the fact that the day was the 20th of anti-government protests, protesters arranged that the “morning coffee” sessions outside Parliament would be extended through the day to blend in with the now-traditional 6.30pm protests.
• Outside Parliament and the office of the Cabinet, which met on July 3, the cordon sanitaire of police barriers was extended to points significantly further away from the buildings.
• Protesters blocked for some time the intersection of Vassil Levski Boulevard and Oborishte Street in central Sofia, a development that follows on an earlier event in which protesters obstructed an official motorcade said to have been carrying Plamen Oresharski, appointed in May to sit in the prime minister’s chair in the Bulgarian Socialist Party government.
• Apart from some protesters pelting the building of the National Assembly with vegetables, eggs and toilet paper, a reporter for TV7 – a media company owned by Peevski’s mother – reportedly was sprayed with a water pistol. The reporter used a toilet roll earlier thrown at him to dry himself.
• TV7 and its sibling News7 released the results of a poll that it had commissioned from the Mediana agency saying that most Bulgarians did not want early elections, that if such were held the BSP would get the most votes, and naming Oresharski as one of the country’s three most popular politicians. These assertions immediately became a laughing stock on social networks and beneath stories on websites reporting them.
• President Plevneliev said that parties in Parliament should unite in the quest for joint solutions to meet public expectations for transparency and fairness in addressing issues such as amendments to electoral law, and reforms in the energy and security sectors. Plevneliev said that his responsibility as head of state was to continue to seek dialogue and consensus to resolve the current political crisis in Bulgaria. “I believe that the situation warrants such a responsible attitude on the part of all institutions and leaders of political parties,” he said. Plevneliev said that after 20 days of unprecedented protests, the best solution was that politicians reach out to civil society and listen to the clear messages being sent.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)