Bulgarian government ducks public debate challenge

Plamen Oresharski, occupant of the prime minister’s seat in the Bulgarian Socialist Party government, has responded to a challenge from anti-government protesters for a public debate with an invitation to private talks – a move in turn rejected by the protesters.

The invitation to a public debate 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, Oresharski, and Tsvetlin Yovchev, Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

The group proposed that the public debate take place in the format of public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television’s weekly Tuesday Referendum debate show.

In a statement issued by the government media office, Oresharski was quoted as saying that he expressed thanks for the invitation for a public debate and was ready for dialogue with everyone.

The statement said that Oresharski had set aside every second Friday for “open discussions” at the Cabinet building with representatives of the anti-government protesters and civil society as a whole.

“Public councils” had been set up at each ministry “as a platform for public and expert discussion on important issues in different sectors”.

The statement said that Oresharski had called for a meeting with protesters as early as June 17 but had been rejected on the basis of conditions which, the statement said, had long been met.

It proposed that a meeting be held at the Cabinet office on August 1 at 3pm.

Tsoneva, manager of the Institute for Public Environment Development, responded that “we wanted a public debate. We do not accept an invitation to be received by the Prime Minister”.

She reiterated that the group did not claim to represent the protesters, and had wanted neutral territory on which a debate could be held, for and against, the government resigning.

She said that there had been no communication from the other three to whom the invitation had been sent.

On July 29, a BSP MP, Anton Koutev, said that there would be no time to meet the deadline for the debate, while the MRF said that Mestan would decide what to do.

In a statement, BNT said that the dialogue proposed in the open letter was something undeniably important to hold, but with guaranteed representation of all perspectives on the events.

The broadcaster was ready to organise such a debate in accordance with its professional criteria, and welcomed the fact that “it continues to gain the trust of society and is considered a media that ensures objectivity and a plurality of views.

(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)



The Sofia Globe staff

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