Many thousands turn out for rival rallies of Bulgaria’s ruling axis and opposition
Many thousands, said by organisers to add up to 60 000, turned out for a pro-government rally in central Sofia held on November 16 2013 by the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party with the support of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.
It was a boom day for transport companies as the ruling axis bussed in supporters from cities and towns around Bulgaria. Traffic in parts of central Sofia was clogged as large numbers of buses caused traffic jams. State railways BDZ confirmed that the MRF had paid 70 000 leva (about 35 000 euro) for two trains, one from the Black Sea city of Varna and another from coastal Bourgas, to Sofia.
The BSP rally, with party leader Sergei Stanishev joined by MRF leader Lyutvi Mestan and the ruling axis’s appointee to sit in the prime minister’s seat, Plamen Oresharski, on the podium, proceeded along Tsarigradsko Chaussee into the area around Parliament, the Cabinet building and the Presidency – customarily the scene for the past five months of widely-supported anti-government protests.
Stanishev, speaking at the start of the rally, told the crowd that “democracy is under threat” in Bulgaria, lashing out at the five months of anti-government protests which, he said, featured provocations and were arranged by those who had ruined the economy and the institutions, seeking to escape their responsibility and who had “stolen money from all of us, Bulgarian citizens”.
Oresharski told the crowd, “Bulgaria is going through a difficult period. Today the country is suffering deep institutional crisis and continuing division of the society. These were my first words I wrote in the beginning of the platform of the Cabinet. Unfortunately these words sound topical despite our efforts to conduct policy for recovering the system of state and economy”.
“We will continue being tolerant and to work for the bright future of our country no matter what the price we should pay on the personal front,” Oresharski said.
In Sofia, there was a massive police presence, not only because of the pro-government rally but also because of a football match scheduled for the afternoon between the teams of CSKA and Levski. The presence of thousands of football fans, in addition to the ruling axis rally, compounded concerns about security in the city.
In Plovdiv, an anti-government rally by parliamentary opposition party GERB drew about 35 000 people, according to reporters present in Bulgaria’s second city. Senior GERB MP Lilyana Pavlova, however, told a television reporter that turnout exceeded 100 000.
GERB leader Boiko Borissov poked fun at the BSP, saying that they could not organise a rally without the help of the MRF.
The rally opened with an expression of support for the anti-government university student protests. Earlier, the students, who have been on an “Occupy” protest for more than three weeks, said that they would not accept the endorsement of any political party.
Anti-government protests began in Bulgaria after the abortive appointment on June 14 of Delyan Peevski, then an MRF MP and the scion of a massive media-owning family whose outlets currently support the government. Recent polls by the more reliable opinion polling agencies in Bulgaria indicate majority support for demands for the resignation of the government, while approval of the cabinet and Parliament is strikingly low, with 11 out of 17 cabinet ministers having approval ratings of less than zero.