They may be shouting “resignation!” rather than “this is madness”, but Bulgaria’s anti-government protesters have picked a 300 theme for a demonstration outside the cabinet office on April 9.
The idea of the protest, a revival of the anti-government protests that began in June 2013 after the abortive appointment of Delyan Peevski as head of the State Agency for National Security (SANS).
On the eve of the protest, themed by a Facebook group as “300 days, 300 brave Bulgarians”, Peevski was again in the headlines because local organisations of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms have nominated him for a place high on the list of the party’s candidates in Bulgaria’s May 25 European Parliament elections.
The appointment of Peevski, scion of a media-owning family widely seen as closely allied to the current ruling axis of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the MRF, sparked national outrage and was hastily withdrawn. The government itself refused to step down and the months of the DANSWithme protests were underway.
Two challenges in the Constitutional Court to Peevski returning to his seat as a member of the 42nd National Assembly failed. However, there has been scant evidence of Peevski’s engagement with Parliament, barring controversial legislation on offshore companies being tabled jointly in his name and that of the MRF’s Yordan Tsonev.
In a recent television interview, MRF deputy chairman Kamen Kostadinov said that Peevski had a good reputation within the party and was well-known all over Bulgaria, so it was no surprise that the party structure in Kurdjali had nominated him as a candidate MEP. A day later, Peevski was also nominated by the MRF in Smolyan.
Kostadinov said that Peevski had been travelling around the country, meeting local party structures to answer their questions.
As to the European Parliament elections, some voices have argued that a poor showing by the parties of the ruling axis should open the way for early national parliamentary elections, a key demand of the anti-government protests since Peevski’s SANS appointment close to 300 days ago.
The more reliable of Bulgaria’s opinion polling agencies have found public confidence in the government to be strikingly low and steadily diminishing, but the cabinet has refused to resign, with the parties in power alleging the anti-government protests to be orchestrated by their centre-right rivals, former ruling party GERB.
While turnout at anti-government protests drew many thousands in the summer of 2013, numbers diminished in the autumn, although polls showed continuing support for demands that the government resign.
With the weather warming and political tensions hardly having diminished between the national elections of May 2013 and the coming European Parliament elections of May 2014, the level of turnout for the April 9 protest – scheduled for 7pm to 10pm – will be a key test of whether Bulgarians are again prepared to mobilise in the streets to lodge their objections to the current government.
(Archive photo of an anti-government protest in Sofia in September 2013: noresharski.com)