Over the past 10 days, thousands of protesters have repeatedly taken to the streets of Bulgaria to oppose the Socialist-led coalition government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, which is accused of corruption. A popular slogan is “NOresharski! NOligarchy!” While a generalized anger at the country’s political elite animates the protests, the spark that set them off was Oresharski’s appointment of MP Delyan Peevski as director of the State Agency for National Security (SANS). Peevski is a leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), which advocates for Muslims and ethnic Turks in Bulgaria—pointing to a xenophobic element in the protest movement. Bulgaria’s parliament revoked the appointment of Peevski, but protesters continue to call for the government’s resignation.
The country’s political right is clearly exploiting the unrest. “Since the Movement for Rights and Freedoms considers Vasil Levski a criminal, then everything they say about me is a compliment,” said ex-prime minister Boiko Borisov, chair of the center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (CEDB), refering to the 19th century Bulgarian revolutionary who resisted Turkish Ottoman rule and is revered as a national hero.
In February, Bulgaria’s previous conservative-led government was forced to resign after massive protests against high energy costs and low wages in the poorest EU member state. (Standart, June 24; AFP, June 23; Press TV, June 22; Euronews, June 21; Focus Information Agency, June 18)
Bulgaria saw a wave of ugly anti-Roma protests two years ago.