The anti-government Protest Network issued a call on October 3, the 112th day of protests demanding the resignation of the Bulgarian Socialist Party cabinet, for the daily protests instead to be held weekly.
Against a background of steadily diminishing turnout, the Protest Network called for the evening protests to be held on Thursdays at 6.30pm and the “coffee-drinking” sessions outside Parliament to be on Friday mornings.
Although turnout has reduced, a trend that began at the height of the summer holiday season in August and that has continued as the weather turns colder, a poll by Alpha Research in recent days showed that 76 per cent of Bulgarians wanted fresh elections, varying in their opinions only whether this should be in the next few months or simultaneously with Bulgaria’s European Parliament elections in May 2014.
The current cabinet in Bulgaria was put together using the mandate handed to the BSP, which ran second in the May elections, after former ruling party centre-right GERB had no allies in Parliament with which to form a governing coalition.
One of the first major blunders by the current government, the abortive appointment of controversial figure Delyan Peevski – at the time sitting as a Movement for Rights and Freedoms MPs but best-known for his family’s predominance in Bulgarian media ownership – as head of the State Agency for State Security, spurred tens of thousands of Bulgarians to join daily protests demanding that the government resign.
The protests have been largely peaceful, in spite of agents provocateur planted in the crowds, and the only exception has been the July 23 clash in central Sofia when police escorting a busload of MPs that had been sent towards the crowd got into scuffles with protesters.
A further significant event was when GERB sought to openly associate the party with the anti-government protesters, annoying participants who did not want the demonstrations to have a partisan flavour.
In its statement, the Protest Network said that for 112 days, Bulgaria had been having civil protests against the mafia.
The statement, acknowledging that turnout had become less, said, “we cannot change the fact that apart being protesters, we are people who work, have families, have commitments, accumulating for more than 100 days”.
“We realise how difficult it is to combine long active protesting with the responsibilities that we have.”
The network called all who were sympathetic to the cause of the protest to devote one night a week on Thursdays to come out to protest, and in the rest of the time, to continue to protest “in whatever form”.
It urged people to turn out in force for the Thursday and Friday events.
Meanwhile, GERB said that it had received a letter from European Commission secretary general Catherine Day in response to the party writing to report the fact that police had conducted identity checks of anti-government protesters.
According to GERB, the letter said that the EC had reviewed very carefully the information and the specific incident outlined in the letter, and this would be taken into account when next the Commission compiled the report on Bulgaria and the Co-operation and Verification Mechanism, the system put in place when the country joined the EU in 2007, to bring it up to the bloc’s standards in justice and home affairs.
In other news from the country’s Parliament, media outlets and social networks posted a photograph purportedly depicting Dimitar Chukulov, an MP for Volen Siderov’s ultra-nationalist Ataka party, directing his raised middle finger at anti-government protesters from a car window on his departure from the legislature when it again failed to muster a quorum to hold a sitting.
(Main photo: An archive photo from Noresharski.com of anti-government protests at their height)