The day of drama in Bulgaria that began on July 11 with tensions amid a contest over the beach near Movement for Rights and Freedoms honorary president Ahmed Dogan’s seaside mansion continued with President Radev calling for the government’s resignation, the head of the Bourgas police submitting his resignation, and the majority ruling party accusing the President of seeking to seize all state power for himself.
The second half of the day also saw, reportedly, a decision to withdraw National Security Service protection for Dogan – who occupies no elected public office – and Delyan Peevski, the controversial media mogul who occupies an elected office no higher than ordinary MP for the MRF.
The first half of the day saw a huge deployment of police and a mass turnout of MRF supporters, as Yes Bulgaria activists led by Hristo Ivanov tried by land and sea to visit the beach near Dogan’s mansion.
After some clashes with police, and arrests – including of a member of the Yes Bulgaria executive council, Ivailo Mirchev – after 1pm access to the beach was opened.
Police chiefs insisted that the blocking of the Yes Bulgaria activists had been intended to prevent clashes with the large MRF group. Reports showed buses from various MRF strongholds in Bulgaria that had been used to bring that party’s echelons to the spot.
As the Yes Bulgaria group arrived near Dogan’s mansion near the beach in Rosenet Park, the MRF group sang the Bulgarian national anthem.
At 3pm, head of state President Roumen Radev – elected on an opposition socialist ticket and long a vocal critic of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s government – made a live television address, calling for the resignation of the government and Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev.
Radev, who in recent days has emerged from the Presidency building to speak at protests against the government and the Prosecutor-General, said that the decision by Borissov’s party to hold a pro-government rally on Friday near the anti-government protesters had been “a deliberate and unacceptable provocation against civil peace”.
Against a background of Borissov’s GERB party having blamed Radev for stoking the confrontations in the protests, Radev said that the Prime Minister’s attempts to shift responsibility for public tensions “cannot deceive anyone who knows the situation in Bulgaria”.
“Corruption, fear, prosecutorial racketeering and inaction against thievery, trampling on the presumption of innocence, suffocation of freedom of speech, unscrupulous lies and lack of justice are what the Bulgarians have rebelled against,” Radev said.
“Anger is deep, accumulated over the years, and cannot be suppressed with fear and force,” he said, accusing the government of having been “mafia-ised”.
Responding on Twitter, Geshev said that Radev had violated Bulgaria’s constitution.
Referring to the constitutional provision that requires the head of state to embody the unity of the nation, Geshev wrote: “The ‘unifier of the nation’ once again allowed himself to violate the independence of the judiciary and to exert harsh pressure on the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Bulgaria”.
By doing so, Radev had violated the constitution, which regulates the separation of powers, Geshev said. A day earlier, Geshev had underlined that he was referring to Radev by his surname only, without his state title, because Radev had reduced himself to a political hack by playing along with various political parties.
Later on Saturday afternoon, Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev, accompanied by two other Cabinet members – one the leader of an ultranationalist minority partner in government – responded to Radev’s statement at a special news conference.
Donchev told the media “You are probably expecting a mirror reaction after the intervention of the President. I will not say the government wants the President’s resignation. I want the Bulgarian President to serve his term, although I do not agree with most of the theses he expresses publicly. We protect the state because we have no other state”.
In his statement, Radev had asked for all the power in the state, immediately and without being subject to control, Donchev said.
Radev, earlier in the week, called for the removal of the NSS protection of Dogan and Peevski.
On Saturday, Borissov called for the commission that decides on NSS protection to be convened urgently to withdraw the service’s bodyguards protecting Dogan and Peevski. Subsequently, Bulgarian National Television said that it had confirmation that the two were giving up NSS security “because they no longer trust the principal of the service”. By law, the NSS reports to the President.
Amid controversy about police handling of the situation near Dogan’s mansion, it was agreed in talks between Borissov and Interior Minister Mladen Marinov that that Senior Commissioner Radoslav Sotirov, head of the regional directorate of the ministry in Bourgas, should resign.
But later Marinov said that, based on an examination of the events of the day: “I do not intend to accept his resignation, and I will report this to the Prime Minister”.
The events of the day were shown live on some Bulgarian television stations as well as being streamed on Facebook by participants. Some quipped on the social network that the sight of police barring Bulgarians from a Bulgarian beach, and arresting some, was not quite in kilter with the Tourism Minister’s policy of encouraging domestic tourism. And asked why Ivanov’s group had not been provided with free sunbeds and umbrellas.
(Photo: A screenshot of live footage of Mirchev’s arrest. The Interior Ministry said that three police were injured in clashes as people sought to breach the cordon keeping the two protests apart)
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