60% of Bulgarians support student anti-government protests – poll

Sixty per cent of Bulgarians support the protests by university students demanding the resignation of the Bulgarian Socialist Party government, new elections and moral reforms, according to a public opinion poll by Alpha Research, the results of which were released on November 3 2013.

The poll was done among 1030 people three days after the beginning of the “Occupy” protest at the central campus of Sofia University, and was conducted from October 26 to 31.

Approval of the protests, which have won support at many other university campuses in Bulgaria and abroad, was relatively higher in Sofia (64 to 67 per cent) and slighter lower in towns and villages (56 to 59 per cent).

There were no significant differences in support for the anti-government student protests among groups according to education, ranging from 57 to 62 per cent.

The most polarised groups among those polled by Alpha Research was the over-60s, with 47 per cent in favour of the student protests and 52 per cent against.

Two-thirds of those polled saw the student protests as spontaneous and driven by a sense of justice but 29 per cent said that the protests were paid and serving partisan interests – the latter being the line taken by Bulgaria’s current ruling axis.

Notably, however, even among those who oppose the student protests, 20 per cent said that they believed that the students were motivated by a sense of moral rebellion and were not hirelings of political partisan interests.

Fifty-eight per cent of those polled said that they believe that the protests would grow.

Thirty-eight per cent of those who did not support the protests believed that they would grow while 25 per cent of those who supported the protests believed that they would not.

Large-scale anti-government protests in Bulgaria began on June 14 after the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms MPs voted to install controversial figure Delyan Peevski, then sitting as an MP for the MRF and a member of a major media-owning family, as head of the State Agency for National Security.

Peevski’s installation as head of SANS was withdrawn four days later, but protests against the current government have continued, with protesters decrying this and every subsequent major misstep by the government as proof of being utterly discredited.

An earlier poll by Alpha Research found that 76 per cent of Bulgarians wanted the current government to step down, which thus far it has refused to do.

Public anti-government protests flagged at the peak of summer and as the autumn sitting of the 42nd National Assembly began, but were invigorated to an extent by a controversial Constitutional Court finding that Peevski was still an MP, and the protests got new impetus as the students embarked on their protest.

However, on November 3 there seemed scant hope in the short term of Bulgaria’s major trade union confederations acquiescing in the students’ call for a national strike.

Speaking to Bulgarian National Radio, Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bulgaria head Plamen Dimitrov said that the current situation did not require the need for a national strike, although this did not mean that in “a week or two or more” this assessment could change 180 degrees.

Dimitrov said that what was most important was what was happening in the energy sector.

He said that the solutions that had been come up with so far were “half-hearted”.

“A nationwide strike is a very complex move and should be timed very well. There are problems in many sectors but things at this point are not calling for a decision for a national strike,” Dimitrov said.

In early 2013, protests directed against the then-government of centre-right GERB politician Boiko Borissov were rallied around high electricity bills. When these protests, in which a number of figures with left-wing and Russophile backgrounds were involved, turned violent, Borissov stepped down, paving the way for a caretaker government and early elections in which GERB got the largest share of votes, but not enough to form a government.

(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)




The Sofia Globe staff

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