The melodrama currently preoccupying Bulgaria’s politicians took new turns on July 10 as it emerged that the National Security Service had asked – among others – the Navy to guard the waters off the coast where Ahmed Dogan’s seaside mansion stands, and the war of words between the President and Prosecutor-General became even more embittered.
The statements on July 10 were a sequel to an event in which former Justice Minister and Democratic Bulgaria coalition leader Hristo Ivanov landed by sea to access the beach where Dogan’s sprawling coastal villa stands, and was seen off by National Security Service guards.
The fact of the NSS guarding Dogan, the founder and life president of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms but who holds no public elected office, has once again – as in previous years – become the topic of wrangling among Bulgaria’s politicians.
The Ivanov episode and subsequent slanging matches also were the catalyst for a protest in Sofia on July 9 that, according to Interior Ministry estimates, drew 8000 people, among the largest protests in Bulgaria’s capital city in several years. A sequel was planned for the afternoon of July 10.
Given that the protests were directed in the main against Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s government and against Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev, a clearly stung Borissov held not one but two news conferences on Friday.
At the second briefing, Borissov read out an order from the head of the NSS, General Krassimir Stanchev, asking that the sea in front of Rosenets – location of the Dogan mansion – be guarded from the afternoon of July 10 until September 15.
Ivanov and his associates plan to continue their actions by arranging a protest flotilla of small ships offshore from Dogan’s mansion on Saturday.
The Stanchev letter was copied to, among others, the officer commanding the Bulgarian Navy.
Flanking Borissov at the briefing, Defence Minister Krassimir Karakachanov, leader of the ultra-nationalist VMRO party, expressed indignation at the incident when, as Ivanov tried to walk on the beach, one of the guards grabbed a Bulgarian flag from Ivanov and threw it on the ground.
Karakachanov described the flag incident as “a disgraceful act”.
Transport Minister Rossen Zhelyazkov said that the Maritime Administration had provided the co-ordinates of the area of the sea as requested, but asked: “Why did the NSS, and on the basis of what data, decide yesterday to impose restrictions on this area? Isn’t this an indicative attempt to involve state authorities in a political context?”
In the course of the day, President Roumen Radev was targeted by Prosecutor-General Geshev, after Radev, in public comments on Thursday, alleged a link between the Prosecutor-General’s office and organised crime. Geshev accused Radev of putting unprecedented political pressure on the prosecutor’s office.
Later on Friday afternoon, the President’s office announced that Radev had demanded the resignation of Stanchev as head of the NSS. Stanchev later submitted his resignation, Bulgarian National Radio reported.
Two days earlier, Radev had asked why the NSS was guarding figures such as Dogan and controversial MRF MP and media owner Delyan Peevski.
Radev has tangled with Borissov over which of the two of them has genuine sway over decisions by the NSS as to whom it guards. By law, the NSS reports to the President, though decisions on providing close personal protection lie with a commission of the NSS. Radev has claimed that it is not he, but Borissov who makes decisions about providing NSS bodyguards.