Two recent incidents illustrate the determination of Bulgaria’s anti-government protesters to pressure Plamen Oresharski, occupant of the prime minister’s seat in the Bulgarian Socialist Party government.
After Oresharski was heckled by the crowd with shouts of “resign!” at a Unification Day ceremony in Plovdiv, his visit to Bulgarian National Television for a Friday 13 interview descended into debacle when he had to leave via a rear exit, heavily guarded by police, as anti-government protesters gathered rapidly outside the station’s building.
An object of ridicule and contempt for anti-government protesters, the man appointed as prime minister in May 2013 has seldom if ever made public appearances in less than guarded circumstances.
In recent weeks, the only time that he has been spared heckling was during a visit to China for a World Economic Forum event, a story that the government information service tried hard to promote as significant for possible future investments in Bulgaria.
Oresharski also seldom has made spontaneous appearances in front of journalists. Post-cabinet meeting doorstep events generally have been left to one of his deputies.
This past week, he did appear to take questions, but terminated the question session after being asked about Delyan Peevski, the controversial figure whose abortive appointment as head of the State Agency for National Security fuelled the protests demanding the government’s resignation, that now have gone on for more than three months.
While Oresharski appeared irritated at the time of the Peevski question, saying that he was closing the question session because the relevant questions were over, he claimed in an interview with Darik Radio on September 15 that the Peevski topic was “beginning to amuse me”.
Echoing the party line of the BSP, as expressed by BSP MP Maya Manolova earlier, Oresharski said that the Peevski issue was not “number one issue on the public agenda at the moment”.
“There are certain groups who are interested in this topic staying on the agenda, reinforcing divisions in society,” Oresharski said.
Division in society – more than half of Bulgarians questioned in a recent poll supported the anti-government protests and demands for the immediate resignation of the administration – was on ample display in Plovdiv on Unification Square on September 6, going by a report for Deutsche Welle by Ivan Bedrov.
The event was attended by Oresharski and by head of state President Rossen Plevneliev. The reception given by the public to the two politicians was significantly at variance, going by the report.
Metal barriers, police and National Security Service guards kept the public back as Oresharski was delivered to the ceremony by armoured vehicle. There were chants of “Oresharski out!” from most of those present (“the person with that name looked the other way,” the report said).
As representatives of political parties laid wreaths, each was booed, the report said, although Plevneliev was applauded.
The report said that Oresharski’s experience in Plovdiv showed that the government would not have an easy time on the streets, adding that more holidays were forthcoming, traditionally attended by state and government officials. Independence Day is forthcoming on September 22.
But before September 22 came Friday the 13th, on the evening of which Oresharski went to the San Stefano Street building in the capital for an interview on BNT’s weekly political talk show Panorama.
As word spread about the live interview, about 200 people gathered at the building, blocking exits in the narrow streets around BNT.
Shouts of “goodbye!”, “resign!” and “Mafia!” greeted Oresharski as police held back protesters.
As the rain poured down, Oresharski was led out of an alternative exit (anti-government protesters and some media delighted in pointing out that it was the one used by BNT to remove refuse) and towards a vehicle.
“This has been one of the more successful attempts at catching a glimpse at the increasingly media shy Oresharski and attempting a form of dialogue with him. Nonetheless and despite the chosen form of exit, Oresharski remains unshaken and has once more left the most important questions regarding the formation of Bulgaria’s political system pending,” anti-government website noresharski.com said, in a reference to the Peevski appointment.
“After the action, the Protest Network, the coordination body of the main groups against the government of Oresharski, issued a special statement, warning that all PMs collaborating with the mafia will have to leave via rubbish clearance exits,” noresharski said.
(Main photo, from the Friday 13 appearance at BNT: noresharski.com)