PES leader Stanishev under pressure from protests at home

Sergei Stanishev [Georgi Gotev]

Sergei Stanishev, leader of the Party of European Socialists (PES), is under pressure to resign as leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party following a decision of the Socialist-led government to appoint a controversial media mogul as security chief.

The two-week old government is on the brink of collapse following the surprise decision of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski to appoint Delyan Peevski as leader of the country’s State Agency for National Security (DANS). Peevski, the owner of the New Bulgarian media group, is considered a shady power broker.

The vote in the Bulgarian parliament on 14 June which installed Peevski as chief of DANS took the country by surprise, and unleashed unprecedented reaction in social media.

Peevski, 33, is a member of parliament from the Movement of Rights and Freedoms (DPS), a political party representing the Turkish minority in Bulgaria. DPS is in coalition with the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the two forces having managed to form a minority government on 29 May.

>> Read: Socialist-led government takes over in Bulgaria

For three days in a row, protestors gathered in the streets of the country’s biggest cities to protest Peevski’s appointment, shouting “Mafia” and “Red trash”.

“Red trash” is an ant-Communist slogan, dating from the early period of democratisation in Bulgaria in the 1990s, which has not been in use for many years. Its use reflects that the tide of the protests have turned now again the Socialists. In January and February, massive protests led to the collapse of the centre-right government of former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. But analysts say that the protestors were in fact denouncing the entire political class, from the centre-left to centre-right, as corrupt.

>> Read: Bulgarian prime minister quits following mass protests over electricity bills

Peevski announced his resignation and Oresharski said he would enter in consultations for his replacement. The prime minister also said that he would not resign, because of fears it would destabilise the country.

Speaking on national television yesterday, Stanishev recognised that the decision to appoint Peevski had been a mistake, but insisted that he would not resign as BSP leader.

Several BSP heavyweights, however, insist that Stanishev should resign. In the meantime, activists on social media said they would organise protests on 20 and 21 June, when the PES holds a meeting in Sofia to consider public perceptions of Stanishev.

Stanishev received a reported blow from the leader of the European Parliament's Socialists and Democrats group, Hannes Swoboda. In a tweet on 15 June, Swoboda wrote: “I am surprised by Bulgarian government nomination of head of National Security Agency. There must be more competent ones.” 

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