Undeterred by weather's whims, thousands of Bulgarians have been gathering daily in downtown Sofia since June 14th and are vowing to continue their peaceful protests.
By Svetla Dimitrova for Southeast European Times in Sofia -- 06/07/13
Bloggers said the protests mark the birth of a genuine civil society in Bulgaria. [Tzvetina Borisova/SETimes]
Thousands of Bulgarians have protesting daily in Sofia following the election of a highly controversial figure as head of the State Agency for National Security.
Delyan Peevski, a 32-year-old media baron and a Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) lawmaker, was nominated as security chief by Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski on June 14th, and parliament elected him to the post minutes later, without any debate.
Five days later, the assembly revoked its decision and cancelled the appointment amid protests in Sofia and most of the country's big cities.
Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) leader Sergei Stainishev, who also heads the Party of European Socialists (PES), described Peevski's removal as "a clear political act showing that lessons were learnt," as well as "a clear sign we are taking people's voice into consideration."
Peevski, who runs a newspaper and TV empire together with his mother Irena Krasteva, served as deputy minister responsible for disaster relief in the three-way coalition government, headed by Stanishev, which ruled Bulgaria between 2005 and 2009. Halfway through the cabinet's term, he was dismissed amid allegations of corruption, but the charges against him were later dropped.
Bulgarians, particularly in Sofia, were not appeased by his removal as head of the security agency, all the more that this has not been the only controversial appointment or step made by the government since it took office on May 29th.
The BSP-MRF coalition government replaced that of the centre-right party GERB, which won the inconclusive early parliamentary elections on May 12th but failed to muster enough support to form a government on its own. The election produced an assembly, in which the BSP and the MRF hold exactly half of all 240 seats, which is only one seat short of the requirement that at least 121 MPs be present for a parliamentary session to be held.
"Today, the majority of voters are no longer represented in Bulgaria's worse-than-hung parliament," blogger Georgi Marinov wrote on June 19th.
According to him, 62 percent of Bulgarian voters were left without representation in parliament.
In a blog post on June 21st, he cited this as one of seven reasons for continuing protests, stressing that they were not about DANS or Peevski and urging international media to cover the events in the Balkan nation.
"That case is well over, but the cause is bigger than ДАНС," Marinov wrote, using the Bulgarian acronym for the security agency.
Bulgarian poet, intellectual and former right-wing MP Edvin Sugarev wrote on June 30th that "The truth is that [new] elections will change everything. Least of all, because the BSP will suffer such a deafening defeat that it will either split or will be marginalised -- and won't be able to crawl back into power for a long enough time, so that we can set our ailing country back on its feet."
On June 25th, Sugarev went on a hunger strike in protest against Oresharski's government, saying he was ready to starve to death in protest.
According to journalist and blogger Ralitsa Kovacheva, the current events will only make sense "if we don't change" and that at times of elections and in the routine of everyday life, people don't lose interest on how they are being governed, irrespective of who is in power.
"Politicians must rule keeping in mind that we are here and we're watching them, while we must not forget that we have a right to demand and the strength to resist. This is the big point," she wrote. "In this sense, we are seeing the birth of proto-civil society and the first attempts to clear the media field. One other thing, for the first time in many years, people have started talking about values and morality in politics."
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