In a televised address on July 15 on the back of several days of hugely-attended protests calling for the resignation of Bulgaria’s government and Prosecutor-General, Bulgarian President Roumen Radev backed the calls and urged the holding of early parliamentary elections.
In what was billed as an “address to the nation”, Radev – a critic of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s government since taking office as head of state and who has been tangled in a public row with Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev – described the protests as the mobilisation of Bulgarians in a national consensus against the mafia.
“The courage to call the problems by their real names. The determination to no longer tolerate corruption and its umbrella in the prosecution. The merging of power with the media. The Deep State that erodes democratic institutions and the law,” Radev said.
He described the mobilisation in the protests – which have drawn tens of thousands of participants – as “huge historical capital” that could change the fate of Bulgaria and every Bulgarian.
The protests, he said, were not owned by any leader or any political party, “but by the entire Bulgarian people”.
“The mafia feeds on fear and apathy. Today our struggle for justice and freedom is in the hands of the people of the protest. The insulting suggestions that thousands of Bulgarians in the squares are paid and manipulated betray arrogance, political helplessness and intrigue behind the scenes. Lies and sowing of schism,” Radev said.
He said that Bulgarians had “never been” more united in their demand for legality and more mature in their determination to “get their country back”.
“To protect nature, to make the media truthful again, for which we pay with our taxes. That is why we must be wise and united, so that we do not allow selfishness, prejudice, intrigues behind the scenes and external forces to bring disunity to our ranks.”
Radev said that the attempts by the government and the Prosecutor-General to survive with “insinuations and intrigues”, as well as a refusal to heed the voice of Bulgaria, only prolonged the crisis, because trust had been lost.
“The current oligarchic model of government has been exhausted and rejected by the people. The restart of the political process and the modernization of the country require the resignation of the government and the Prosecutor-General and fair elections,” Radev said.
He said that the protests were nationwide, bringing together all ages and classes. He called for non-violence and the avoidance of provocations.
“Once again, I call on the police and the protesters to be non-violent and to avoid provocations. At this historic moment for our country, we must not allow the just demands of the citizens to be distorted and the energy for change to be wasted,” he said.
“The transition began with the mutri (organised crime figures) and will end with their removal from power. It is up to each of us to make this happen,” Radev said.
Radev, elected on a ticket backed by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, has in past days emerged to address the anti-government protesters. Geshev has accused him of violating the constitution, while in a post on Facebook this past Saturday, Borissov said that his government would not resign.
The protests began with calls not only for the resignations of the government and Geshev, but for a country based on the rule of law and an end to corruption and undue influences in the corridors of power.
Even by the standards of his routine criticisms of Borissov’s government, Radev’s televised address was notably aggressive.
Bulgarian-language media are in a froth of speculation that notwithstanding his Saturday comments, Borissov may resign and take the country to early elections in the autumn. Regular parliamentary elections are scheduled for spring 2021, and presidential elections for autumn next year.
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