Participants in anti-government protests challenge government leaders to debate

Four participants in the daily protests by many thousands of Bulgarians demanding the government’s resignation have issued a challenge to four of the most senior figures linked to the administration to a public debate on whether the government should step down.

The invitation was sent by director Stoyan Radev, constitutional law academic and former Bulgarian Socialist Party MP Georgi Bliznashki, electoral reform advocate Antoaneta Tsoneva and former caretaker economy minister Assen Vassilev to BSP leader Sergei Stanishev, Movement for Rights and Freedoms leader Lyutvi Mestan, Plamen Oresharski – occupant of the prime minister’s seat in the current government – and Tsvetlin Yovchev, Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

The concept is that the invitations were sent to those who make the decisions about the running of the country, not those who carry them out.

Tsoneva said in a Facebook post that she wanted to ask the four that the group had invited about the attack on anti-government protesters on July 23, while Radev said that the group did not claim to represent the protesters as a whole or individually, but wanted to present the government the arguments for its immediate resignation.

The group has proposed that the debate takes place in the format of public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television’s weekly Tuesday debate programme, Referendum, before MPs go on their annual summer holiday. Those in power have been given a deadline of July 30 to respond.

The group cited statements by those in power that they were prepared to engage in dialogue with the anti-government protesters.

Such calls have been made by various figures in Bulgaria’s government, as they have faced – as of July 29 — persistent protests by many thousands demanding their resignation.

The protests began after the election by BSP and MRF MPs of controversial figure Delyan Peevski as head of the State Agency for National Security, but have continued even after Peevski’s appointment was withdrawn, as the protesters see the government as discredited beyond redemption.

The government and the parties supporting it have refused to step down, instead flinging accusations that the anti-government representatives are only a minority while claiming that the incumbent administration has urgent “reform” tasks to carry out.

Bulgarian-language website Mediapool quoted BSP MP Anton Koutev as saying that there was no authorised body that would be able to discuss the invitation by the deadline and that it would have to be responded to by the BSP’s executive council.

The MRF said that it had received the invitation by e-mail and Mestan would decide how to respond.

In a separate development, the Reformist Bloc – a nascent working group of minority right-wing and centre-right parties without seats in Parliament but said by a recent poll to have a good chance of seats were elections held now – said that it would organise a debate in front of the National Assembly building in Sofia on July 31 about the Budget amendments. The bloc called the debate for the day that Parliament is due to hold its second-reading debate on the amendments.

Radan Kanev, leader of the right-wing Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria, said that the bloc invited “anyone who is willing to defend the budget against our arguments for 20 minutes” to attend the debate.

He said that former ruling party GERB, Boiko Borissov’s centre-right party and simultaneously the largest single party and the opposition, had slid along the surface of the first-reading debate, failing to delve into its most sensitive points. “None of our major arguments that this budget relies on a huge theft from the Bulgarian taxpayer was discussed,” Kanev said.

(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)



The Sofia Globe staff

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