‘Fuel price’ protests continue to block roads in Bulgaria
Protests involving disruption of traffic in Bulgaria, mobilised around high fuel prices and seeking the resignation of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s coalition government, continued on the night of November 12.
Although initially protesters had said, after the November 11 protests that caused traffic jams on motorways and in cities, that they would resume on November 17, the first night of week again saw obstruction of traffic.
On foot, such protests, involving at most a few hundred people, would hardly have an impact. Using vehicles to block roads, the impact was considerable. Most Bulgarian-language media have reported the protests as “massive”, though their effect is significantly larger than the actual number of participants.
The stated reasons for the protests are somewhat of a smorgasbord. Not only are they against high fuel prices – the government intervention sought, apart from its resignation, is not clear – but also against draft plans to raise the cost of car insurance, and in general, the protests are said to be in favour of a better standard of living for Bulgarians.
In Bulgaria’s largest Black Sea city Varna on the evening of November 12, protesters blocked the busy junction near the municipal headquarters, and lanes of the Asparuhova Bridge, a vital artery southwards towards Bourgas. The resultant congestion was considerable.
Protesters said that they sought the resignation of the government and a better standard of living.
In Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia, the “fuel price” protest merged with that of mothers of children with disabilities, who are seeking the resignation of ultra-nationalist Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov, who made defamatory comments about the mothers.
In Dobrich, the road to Varna was blocked for about 30 minutes, while in Stara Zagora, there was a motorised procession, calling for the resignation of the government and for a solution to Bulgaria’s demographic crisis.
Protesters in Pernik blocked a junction accessing the Lyulin and Struma motorways. They chanted slogans, including calling for the government’s resignation.
Protesters have threatened to block the Trakiya Motorway on November 18, as the motorway – which links Sofia to Bourgas via Plovdiv – was blocked on November 11.
Bulgaria’s government has underlined that it has no say over fuel prices, which are shaped by rising crude oil prices on world markets. The parliamentary leader of Borissov’s GERB party, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, has said that the fuel prices protests have behind them a political objective.
The protests have been endorsed, in effect, by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, and by President Roumen Radev, a regular critic of the government. Elected head of state on a ticket backed by the opposition BSP, Radev on November 12 described the government as arrogant and cynical, and called for a solution to be found by the Cabinet and Parliament.
Cost-of-living protests loom large in political legend in Bulgaria. In February 2013, protests mobilised around high electricity bills succeeded in prompting the resignation of the first Borissov government, a moment that came after an incident of violence in the protests in Sofia.
On social networks in Bulgaria, the disruption of traffic at the weekend by the protests caused some motorists to ask why the protests were directed not at the country’s sole refinery and the fuel retailers, but at the government.