SOFIA – Protests in Bulgaria turn violent as Borissov refuses to resign

Anti-riot police guarding the Bulgarian parliament weathered smoke bombs, firecrackers and stones on Wednesday (2 September), as anti-government protests turned violent on their 56th day, with over 50 people hurt and nearly 100 arrested.

Protesters said they had no choice but to change strategy, as Borissov’s government successfully passed through parliament a procedure opening the way to draft a new constitution. The move is largely seen as a fudge to save time and avoid his resignation.

Thousands of Bulgarians have been calling every day in the streets on Borissov and prosecutor general Ivan Geshev to resign over rampant high-level corruption that has weakened state institutions and benefited powerful tycoons. Geshev, is widely considered as biased and unfit for the job.

Demonstrators took to the streets of central Sofia from early Wednesday, shouting “Resign” and “Mafia”, pelting the police with eggs as MPs gathered in parliament for the first time after the summer recess.

The President Rumen Radev, who is Borissov’s arch-enemy, made a speech in Parliament, demanding Borissov’s resignation. Borissov’s GERB MEPs (EPP-affiliated) left the Parliament hemicycle while he was speaking.

The opposition Movement of Rights and Freedoms (DPS, affiliated to Renew), asked for the resignation of the government, but also of the President, whom they accused of bias.

Protests by Bulgarians living abroad took place on several continents. In Brussels, a group of protesters tried to meet with the President of the EPP Donald Tusk, without success. However, they made public a letter, voicing frustration at the EPP’s support of GERB.

Protests and roadblocks took place on Wednesday across Bulgaria.

Of the European political families, the Greens are the most vocal in supporting the protests of the Bulgarians against Borissov. Surprisingly, S&D has kept a low profile. The Bulgarian Socialist Party, the biggest opposition force, has kept its distance from the protests.

With the opening of the procedure toward a new constitution, Borissov has won time, although the next step in two months’ time requires 180 signatures in the 240-seat Parliament – an impossible goal. Borissov is under pressure from his junior coalition partner, the United Patriots, to include anti-Roma and anti-LGBT provisions in the new constitution. (Georgi Gotev, EURACTIV.bg/EURACTIV.com)

 

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