Bulgaria’s Lyulin Motorway was blocked by protesters mobilised around “high fuel prices” in the country, Bulgarian National Radio said on November 16.
Bulgaria has been seized by blockages of motorways and key city roads for several days because of the protests, aimed at the resignation of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s government.
The latest obstruction of a key motorway came on the evening of the first day of what is billed to be a three-day protest in Sofia, seeking the government’s resignation and the setting up of a Grand National Assembly to craft a new constitution for the country.
Critics of the November 2018 “fuel price protests” have likened them to the February 2013 protests, which led to an incident of violence in Sofia which prompted Borissov to announce the resignation of his first government, opening the way to early parliamentary elections at the time.
Bulgarian media reports, hostile to the “high fuel price” protests, have alleged that figures prominent in the current protests have ties to organised crime, that at least one has a conviction for fraud, and that another also was prominent in the February 2013 protests, which then were also mobilised around cost of living issues, then regarding high electricity bills amid the winter chill.
According to BNR, the protesters in Pernik who blocked the Lyulin Motorway on the night of November 16 said that they wanted a higher standard of living and said that they were opposed to the “corruption and plundering of the state”.
The same night, a protest also was held in Bulgaria’s largest Black Sea city Varna. The protest was peaceful, with no streets and boulevards blocked.
Protests also were reported in the towns of Kyustendil and Sliven.
In Sofia, protests – billed as “national protests” and organised via social networks – are scheduled for November 18 and 19. Both are expected to cause some traffic disruption in the Bulgarian capital city.
Bulgaria’s government, faced with the protests, has insisted that it has nothing to do with setting the price of the fuel at pumps, arguing that these are determined by trends on world oil markets. At the same time, it has held talks with fuel retailers on ways to cut end-user prices of petrol.
The “high fuel price” protests of recent days have seen obstructions of traffic that have irritated other Bulgarian motorists. In a well-publicised incident on the night of November 15, a motorist fired a gas pistol at the protesters, subsequently breaking the cordon to escape from the blockage near Pernik to head toward Sofia. The motorist was involved in a collision and was reported to be under arrest.
Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Mladen Marinov has appealed, as have other government figures, to protesters to not obstruct Bulgarians’ right to move freely while they exercise their right to protest. Marinov also said that some of those in the protests deliberately sought confrontation and conflict.