After days of insisting that he would not apologise for controversial remarks that have led to protests demanding his resignation, Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov offered a qualified apology – which did nothing to calm the row.
Simeonov, a co-leader of Bulgaria’s strife-torn minority partner in government, the United Patriots, offered the apology to “anyone offended” by his verbal attack on protesting mothers of children with disabilities.
Interviewed by his mouthpiece television channel Skat, Simeonov had described the protesting mothers as “shrill women” exploiting their children for political and commercial purposes.
On October 24, Simeonov, speaking after talks with Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, said that the issue of the “media campaign” and the protests had been discussed at the coalition council.
“At the insistence of the coalition council, I offer my apologies to all who have been affected and offended,” Simeonov said.
“By no means did I intend to offend anybody whatsoever,” said Simeonov, in contrast to the recent days on which he said repeatedly that he knew that his remarks hurt, but he would not apologise for “telling the truth”.
Representatives of the protesting mothers told Bulgarian media that Simeonov’s grudging apology was unacceptable, and protests demanding his resignation from the government would continue.
Vera Ivanova, a mother of a child with disabilities, told Bulgarian National Television: “He continues to behave disgustingly”.
In the National Assembly on October 24, the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, Movement for Rights and Freedoms and the Volya party all demanded Simeonov’s resignation. Each rejected the apology he had delivered a few hours earlier.
The BSP tabled a motion calling for Simeonov to be called to Parliament for a hearing, but this was rejected.