February 22, 2013
I received minutes ago this email from Prof. Krastyo Petkov, a distinguished Bulgarian intellectual whom despite the age difference I consider as a friend. I thought I should share it immediately.
The crossroads of the Bulgarian revolution
Prof. Krastyo Petkov
Remember “17 February! That date has marked the end of the ruling party GERB” – wrote in an article a few days ago one of the leading Bulgarian political analysts.
What really happened last Sunday? Does 17 of February deserve such attention?
It was the eight day of permanent protests of citizen against the high/speculative prices of the electricity, fixed by the private monopolies, operating in the public utilities. Between 100 000 and 150 000 people from 50 cities and smaller settlements went out in the streets, occupying the space in front of the headquarters of CEZ, Energo-Pro and EVN (the tree foreign companies, running the business with the electricity network distribution) all over Bulgaria.
At a certain point the anger blew up against the government and the whole power elite; the crowd everywhere began to shout: “Mafia”, “Resignation” , etc. The most aggressive behavior was observed in Varna and in Sofia. In the capital thousands of mainly young protestors moved from the emblematic spot of their actions “Orlov Most” (“Eagle Bridge”) to the national parliament, crying political slogans like „The System must be changed!”, „All corrupted parties and politicians-out!” and so on.
On the next day the financial minister and vice-prime minister Simeon Djankov resigned. The prime minister Boyko Borissov accepted his resignation, met some of the protest leaders and declared a whole package of anti-monopoly measures, including an 8% price decrease for the electricity supply! He said publicly , that his government will stay in power another five months -until the end of the mandate. But, in less than 24 hours after this firm declaration, Borissov announced the resignation of the whole cabinet.
Yesterday (21 February), Bulgarian parliament approved the resignation. A caretaker government and early elections are coming (the date mentioned so far is 28 Apil).
What stands behind this chronology? What will be the faith of the newly born Bulgarian protest movement?
Below I am trying to find some answers, after almost two years of analytical/field research of the events in the public space the results are published in my recent book „ L’Etat c’est moi!”, dedicated to the rise and fall of the authoritarian regime of the populist party GERB and its charismatic leader Boyko Borissov).
Citizen and leaches
We have to distinguish between at least tree segments among the protestors: authentic, custom/paid and marginal.
a) The authentic/true protestors do really represent the citizenry – but the new generation, different from those, which were active in 1989/90 and 1997, when Bulgaria experienced similar kind of discontent. The present generation was born after 1989; they do not share the same values as there parents (especially the typical/national mantra: „If you bow your head, the sword will not cut it”, claiming instead: „We are The Children of Transition”. Youngsters of today want clear demarcation from the previous generation and political elite about all black/negative developments in the last 23 years (corruption, criminality, clientelism, poverty, unemployment etc.).
The Children of Transition generation lacks political experience. Yesterday, after the Victory (the fallen government) it was clear, that they reached the first crossroad. They feel their own growing power (the main slogan became „ We are many, we are strong!”); they want to continue „till the End” – to change the System, wanting Great National Assembly and a New Constitution, but they don’t know how to achieve that goal! (the same syndrome we observe with „Indignados” and „Occupy” movements). The first attempts yesterday to elect leaders and representatives for a National Assembly of Protestors brought most of the local movements almost to brink of separation. In the same time young/true protestors do not believe in any of the parliamentary parties (newly emerging formation like the Greek Sirysa still do not exist in Bulgaria).
b) The leaches (antipode of the emerging authentic citizen) kept silent for many months, but yesterday they appeared on the main square in Sofia: first, to confront the protestors; second, to greet Boyko Borissov (already ex- prime minister) after his final speech in the parliament. Around 2000 people, most of them brougth by busses from the province, emotionally cried in his face : ”Boyko, we love you”. „Please stay, do not resign”, etc.). It became obvious, that the scenario with the „spontaneous” support, the rulers wanted to create a base for the legitimate return to power of Borissov and GERB after the early elections.
c) The marginals. As usual, drunk and sociopathic individuals joint the rallies and try to provoke clashes and violence. The same was the tactics of the embedded provocateurs (with covered faces). In the last days the civil activists are trying to remove these marginal/outsider groups from the protest.
Other political actors
Their common feature is their state of shocked, than trying to adjust to the storming situation!
This is a very short description of what has happened with the main political players after the 17 February:
-The Inner Circle of Borissov (ministries and close oligarchic figures in the shadow ) were taken by surprise: both – because of sudden/ strong protests and the unilateral decision of their leader to resign . The government and the parliamentary group of GERB learned about the resignation a few hours before it was publicly declared. He autocratic style of Borissov has reached its extreme!
-The opposition in the parliament also was surprised and unprepared to react properly. The fall of the government was not their victory, but the Victory of the Angry Citizen, which had shown remarkable will and resistance.
-Trade unions kept silent until the last moment. Only after the resignation of the financial minister they declared support (in principle!) to the protestors. CL „Podkrepa” called for a „ general/political strike!”; CITUB asked for a Great National Assembly. Too late and outside the mainstream of the civil movement’s expectations and demands!
-The mainstream media. It is well known, that in Bulgaria since many years the classic media are controlled by the corporate/oligarchic networks, and in the last four yours- also by the government. A lot of journalists tried to be objective in transmission and comment of the events, but obvious duality in the whole mass media approach to the 17 February events must be mentioned specially. Here I have to exclude most of the social media, including Facebook, which were the catalyst of the mass rebellion!
Some preliminary conclusions
1. The already started mini-revolution could develop into a real radical change of Bulgarian society and contribute to the European citizen pressure from below to democratise the System. Bulgarians still have chances, but the revolutionary/young citizen groups lack concepts, experienced/visionary leadership and reliable partners .
2. Society is split: 90% support the protest movements, but much less believe that they will succeed! Conformism even among intellectuals and working people is still strong!
3. The old political/transitional elite is totally rejected by the population. Trade unions lost ground. New dynamic/progressive civil/political formations are needed. No strong prototypes yet. May be exchange of pan-European citizen initiatives will help! Pan-European meetings of the grassroot movements, study trips and citizen based road shows are of vital importance!
4. Bulgarian young generation is showing strong potential for change. They have been able to attract public sympathies, to respect the police (even to get its hidden solidarity-in Varna). New symbols and mobilizing logos are being born: „ Children of Transition”, „Eagle Bridge”; new heroes (the young man in Varna, who put fire on him-like Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia) , etc.
The February Revolution in Bulgaria will continue! This is my forecast at the present moment…
20-22 February, 2013Athens-Sofia-VarnaGeorgi Gotev