After night of drama, Bulgaria’s anti-government protests reach 17th day

Bulgaria headed on July 25 for its 17th evening of protests demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s government and Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev, following a night that reached a dramatic note when protesters blocked a government and an opposition politician in the building of the public broadcaster.

Daniela Daritkova, parliamentary leader of Borissov’s GERB party, and opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Kornelia Ninova had appeared in a live broadcast of Bulgarian National Television’s weekly Panorama evening political talk show.

Their appearances came at the close of a week in which a motion by Ninova’s BSP of no confidence in Borissov’s government had been defeated, and in which changes to Borissov’s Cabinet had been voted.

After the close of the show, a large group of mainly young men blocked the exits of BNT’s San Stefano Street headquarters. After more than two hours, Daritkova and Ninova, separately, were able to leave, escorted by police. Some of the protesters overturned recycling bins (later refilled and restored to their places) in a bid to block the car in which Daritkova was travelling, while Ninova was taken to a nearby intersection where she caught a taxi.

While Ninova has sought to align her party with the anti-government protests, demanding the resignation of the government and early elections, she too was the subject of shouts of “resign!” from protesters.

Apart from the larger protests, the BNT building also has seen protests in recent weeks, with participants demanding the resignation of the public broadcaster’s director-general.

As has become customary in recent nights, several major intersections in Sofia were again blocked by anti-government protesters.

Earlier in the evening, in the latest incident involving the throwing of objects at government buildings, protesters hurled quail eggs – which organisers had provided in considerable quantities in large plastic containers – at the Cabinet building. On July 25, an Interior Ministry briefing was told that a police officer who had been hit in the eye with a quail egg had received medical treatment.

In the late afternoon, there was controversy as Motor Vehicle Inspectorate officials stopped a lorry that for days has been used for providing audio services at the protests.

One of the protest organisers, Professor Velislav Minekov, said that the lorry had been stopped and its licence plates removed without any explanation. The “arrested” lorry was later released, as footage of the incident appeared on social networks and a television crew came to the scene. The Motor Vehicle Inspectorate responded with a statement saying that the lorry had been found to be in violation of a number of regulations, and three fines had been issued.

BNR reported that on the 17th day, the protesters’ demands remain unchanged – the resignation of the government and the Prosecutor-General, electronic and remote voting, and a Grand National Assembly to amend Bulgaria’s constitution. Borissov has said that his government will not resign and Geshev has said that he will not resign.

Police told the Saturday morning briefing that on Friday evening, no one had been arrested and police had not used physical force.

While the protests customarily begin in the early evening, there were crowds outside the Cabinet building during the day, as Ninova’s BSP moved its traditional annual Buzludzha gathering from the peak of that name to central Sofia.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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