Bulgarian ultra-nationalist Ataka leader Volen Siderov, whose comments during the current political crisis have been invariably more ludicrous than lucid, reached new heights on July 12 when he said that even if he was taken to prison, he would speak the truth “just like Nelson Mandela”.
It was a headline-making statement (as above), not unsurprisingly, given that perhaps only a minority of one would find any basis for comparison between the Nobel Peace Prize winner, international hero, freedom fighter, South African statesman…and Siderov, whose statements and writings never have given any impression that he shares any points of political philosophy with Mandela.
At an extremely long stretch, there could be a basis for comparison only because Mandela spent more than two decades in jail for taking up the armed struggle against the apartheid regime, while Siderov could theoretically face prosecution for, among other things, hooliganism.
On July 11, Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov said that ultimately Siderov’s immunity as a member of Parliament would not prevent him from being arrested for acts of hooliganism outside Parliament.
In the course of the anti-government protests, Siderov has been involved in numerous incidents, prompting a petition already signed by several thousand people for his immunity to be removed to open the way for his prosecution.
Siderov, who has labelled the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters who turn out daily to demand the resignation of the government as “hooligans” and “terrorists” and who has been pictured arriving at Parliament armed with a firearm and a baton, has been the subject of widespread condemnation and concern at Bulgarian and European level.
Having alleged that the Interior Ministry was failing in its duty, as he sees it, to act against the protesters, Siderov has spoken of the need for “citizens arrests” and indicating that his supporters would take the law into their own hands (remarks that suggested a certain unfamiliarity with the right to peaceful assembly enshrined in the Bulgarian constitution, to say nothing of the several basic human rights entrenched in the South African constitution that was written while Mandela was president).
In Parliament on July 12, Siderov said that he was ready to speak the truth about what was happening in Bulgaria, even if under arrest, like Mandela.
Siderov said that after Tsatsarov had said that he could be arrested, he had reflected on his life to establish why he could be arrested.
“What was my hooliganism? When I said that Mr President Rossen Plevneliev, through his wife, has an offshore company? This is documented. And he himself, as head of a Bulgarian-German company, transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars to the offshore company. If this is a hooligan action…sorry, but it is factual,” said Siderov, who did not offer any proof of his allegations (long since denied by Plevneliev, who has cited public records of his financial affairs) and – as Mediapool reported from Parliament – no proof was asked.
These days, Parliament is attended only by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, its governing partner the Movement for Rights and Freedoms and a few of Siderov’s Ataka MPs, to provide a quorum.
Siderov said that it was clear why there was an “offensive” against him, because he had prevented Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB from returning to power.
He was prepared to be arrested “if it would alleviate the condition of the Bulgarian people” (Siderov’s critics are likely to believe that it would, although for reasons quite different from those imagined by Siderov himself.)
In summary, he dwelt further elsewhere on his enemies list, including political rivals, rival ultra-nationalists, and so on, not forgetting the French and German ambassadors for their joint statement on the protests (these two ambassadors, in the unique view of Siderov, seek the “colonial domination” of Bulgaria).
Siderov’s speech in Parliament was made on the occasion of the 22nd anniversary of the adoption of the Bulgarian constitution.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)