For months, for some a minor hobby has been disputes about turnouts at anti-government meetings.
The Interior Ministry’s estimates have been called into question, to say the least, by the supporters of the protests – as of November 16, in their 156th day – demanding the resignation of the Bulgarian Socialist Party government.
November 16 saw the Bulgarian Socialist Party-Movement for Rights and Freedoms pro-government rally in Sofia, and an anti-government protest by centre-right opposition party GERB in Bulgaria’s second city Plovdiv.
According to the Interior Ministry, turnout at the BSP-MRF rally was 50 000, while 1700 police were on duty. The ministry said that the GERB event in Plovdiv had an attendance of 15 000, while 250 police were on duty.
Others saw these events differently. BSP leader Sergei Stanishev saw 60 000 people. MRF leader Lyutvi Mestan saw “60 000 to 70 000” people.
Separately, an online unofficial estimate of turnout at the pro-government rally, based on the capacity of the two trains used to bring in MRF supporters, the more than 200 buses hired to bring in people from other cities and towns, and the planned logistics of the BSP Sofia, came up with a figure of 18 000 people.
Again online, anti-government people could not resist a visual contrast between turnouts from anti-government protests and those for the pro-government event on November 16:
In Plovdiv, GERB said its turnout was 50 000. Local media reports put the number of people at the GERB rally in Plovdiv at variously 20 000, 35 000 and 40 000. Somewhat giddily, senior GERB MP Lilyana Pavlova put it at 100 000.