Bulgaria’s peaceful anti-government protests, that enter their 22nd day on July 5 2013, are overstretching police personnel and finances, according to Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev.
The protests have been held daily in the evenings and in recent days there also have been morning protests outside Parliament to reinforce demands for a government that the protesters see as – at very least – bereft of credibility, to resign.
The anti-government protests draw many thousand people every day, with the largest demonstrations in capital city Sofia. Recently, counter-protests have been held, in support of the government staying on. These tend to draw about 100 people.
The protests have passed largely without incident, apart from police occasionally being called on to detain agents provocateur who seek to spark incidents. Earlier in the protests, police had to keep apart a group “defending” the headquarters of ultra-nationalists Ataka from passing protesters.
A police officer died of a heart attack after standing duty during a protest earlier this week. Online, social networks have called for protesters to pay respects to the memory of the officer, who has not been named publicly.
For Yovchev, a big issue is that the continuing protests have run up a bill of about three million leva (about 1.5 million euro) in overtime pay for police on duty outside Parliament.
Further, compulsory restrictions on overtime work have meant that about 120 police have had to be seconded to Sofia from outside the capital.
Speaking on July 5 to public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television, Yovchev said that money would be found to pay police for their overtime work.
Police were working 12 to 16 hours a day and “needed some rest,” Yovchev said.
Anti-government protesters have vowed to continue until the government, voted into office in May by the Bulgarian Socialist Party and Movement for Rights and Freedoms with the tacit support of Ataka, bows to public pressure to make way for fresh elections, constitutional and electoral reforms. The government, seen in a recent poll as having record-low public approval, has insisted that it will not resign.