Bulgaria’s summer of stalemate

The 50th consecutive day of anti-government protests in Bulgaria coincided with the final sitting of Parliament before its summer recess of more than a month, with all signs pointing to further political drama in the autumn.

Not that either side will be relaxing their guard in the peak holiday season of August. The government has promised to return to Parliament in September with an expanded version of its plan for the governance of the country, while anti-government protesters are using creative forms of protest to express their determination that the government should step down immediately.

In the wake of the single episode involving violence in all the 50 days of anti-government protest so far, when police clashed with protesters who obstructed a busload of MPs that had – for reasons that remain unclear – being driven into their midst, the atmosphere remains politically tense.

The government seeks to paint the protesters as hooligans, paid agitators and a vocal minority of well-off residents of Sofia who are marionettes in the attempt by Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party to return to power, this having been frustrated by the results of the May elections which handed the largest share of votes to GERB but also put three other parties in Parliament implacably opposed to a new term for Borissov as head of government.

The government, held in place by the Bulgarian Socialist Party and Movement for Rights and Freedoms, has lurched from one blunder to another, adding – in the eyes of anti-government protesters – further discredit to an administration whose policies are likely only to worsen the country’s economic plight and the grip of the “energy mafia” and other oligarchs.

The anti-government protesters have succeeded in making the work of the parties in power in Parliament difficult, with one sitting in recent days being cut short as presiding officers led MPs in a near-hysterical escape from gathering protesters, whom they portrayed – though no proof was offered – as including “extremists” in their ranks, hell-bent on an invasion of the National Assembly.

Daily, MPs have been jeered by anti-government protesters morning and evening. A Bulgarian Socialist Party MP, Maya Manolova, who sought Quixotically to talk to protesters, was ridiculed.

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(Photo: Vassil Garnizov)