Bulgarian ultra-nationalist Ataka party leader Volen Siderov has resigned as deputy head of the National Assembly’s foreign policy committee, a week after being elected to the post.
Siderov’s resignation was reported by Bulgarian National Radio just a few hours before a planned public protest in Sofia on December 5 by the “Early Rising Students” activist group, formed during the 2013 protests against the Bulgarian Socialist Party government of the time, against the appointment of Siderov and other controversial appointments – that of Slavi Binev as head of the committee on culture and media, and Veshdi Rashidov as Culture Minister.
The election of Binev, a sports academy graduate who has a business background in nightclub ownership and security firms as well as a track record of ultra-nationalist politics and of clashes with the media, caused widespread outrage in culture and media circles in Bulgaria.
Binev, a MP for the ultra-nationalist Patriotic Front which currently is among minority parties supporting the centre-right coalition government, got the chairpersonship as part of a deal sharing out committee leaderships among various parties. He has refused to bow to public pressure to resign.
Rashidov, a well-known sculptor, also held the culture portfolio in Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s first cabinet, from 2009 to early 2013. GERB’s election victory and coalition cabinet deal saw Rashidov return to the portfolio, with people in the arts, theatre and culture world objecting because of his track record of slashing financial support for theatres and backing the grandiose and big-ticket “Bulgarian Louvre” project.
The “Early Rising Students”, when announcing their protest, said that they wanted the resignations from their posts of Rashidov and of Binev, as well as Siderov, and wanted Delyan Peevski – the controversial figure whose abortive appointment as head of the State Agency for National Security triggered widely-supported protests demanding the resignation of the government – out as an MP altogether.
The group also wants the state to devote one per cent of GDP to culture, saying that the state’s dismissive attitude to culture is a huge disappointment.
While the group’s open letter is addressed to Borissov and to Speaker of the National Assembly Tsetska Tsacheva, it ends with a question to senior figures from coalition cabinet partner the Reformist Bloc, Radan Kanev and Meglena Kouneva, asking, “Is this your reformist attitude to culture?”