On July 23, the 15th night of large-scale protests against Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s government and Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev, opposition-backed President Roumen Radev again entered the throng outside his office demanding the resignations of the government and Geshev.
Jacketless and in an open-necked white shirt, the former fighter pilot whose election on a socialist-backed ticket has made him an irritation for the Borissov government told the crowd: “I will not use the civic rostrum because it is yours.
“But today, on this fateful day, I am obliged to address you. On the 15th day, the squares are full of hope and defiance. Thousands of people are protesting in the streets of all major cities and in Europe. The posters tell you many truths about which the government remains deaf,” Radev said, in remarks conveyed live on some Bulgarian national television stations and social networks.
His appearance came on the evening of the day on which Borissov, in an apparent response to the protests, announced a Cabinet reshuffle that protest organisers have disdained as “rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic”.
Borissov and his party seniors have rejected calls for their resignation, as has Geshev. Bulgaria’s ruling majority has underlined that elections will not be held early, but in spring 2021, as scheduled.
Radev told protesters that the shared desire for freedom, law and justice has brought all generations of Bulgarians together.
He thanked participants for not succumbing to provocations and threats.
“The protest did not succumb to provocations, you were not afraid of threats. Bulgarians have never been more determined to win back the country from the mafia, for which I thank you. The square has given birth to a brotherhood of honourable people who will not be enslaved to lies and threats.”
Radev has made public calls, broadcast live on television, for the resignation of Borissov’s government.
Radev’s actions in the course of the protests demanding the resignation of the government and Geshev have opened him to recriminations from them, accusing him of violating the constitutional prescript that the head of state – envisaged in the constitution as above and beyond partisan politics – should embody the unity of the nation.
As Radev spoke, that constitutional ideal seemed far distant.
He said that the resignation of the government as a whole and of the Prosecutor-General would be the first step towards fair elections, “towards the beginning of the dismantling of the vicious model of governance”.
“We need a new parliament because the current majority is deaf,” Radev said, wishing the protesters “success and defiance”.
The most recent opinion polls, done many weeks before the current political melodrama, showed Borissov’s GERB party well in the lead, with the Bulgarian Socialist Party sliding amid diminishing fortunes, lately characterised by internal strife in that party as it heads for leadership elections. The same Alpha Research poll showed, at the time, approval for Radev having slid, putting him almost on a par with the approval rating for Borissov. But, as noted, those polls date from well before the current melodrama.
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