August 28, 2013
The protests started on 14 June, when the three-day old government of Plamen Oresharski nominated Delyan Peevski as leader of the State Agency for National Security. On that day, I was outraged just as anyone else and joined a Facebook group demanding the gentleman’s resignation. Peevski, a controversial powerbroker who owns the New Bulgarian Media Group, has since withdrawn his candidacy for the job, but protests continue to demand that the prime minister resign. On 23 July, the protests turned violent.
During the month of August very few people took to the streets. However, news broadcasts in Bulgaria always begin with the announcement “today is the … day of the protests”.
Bulgarian mainstream TV stations continue spending a lot of prime time reporting on the protests. They apparently disregard the fact that sometimes the reporters are more numerous than the protestors. Cameramen chose angles which hide the fact that the number of protestors is minimal. Driving through the centre of Sofia remains difficult, not because of the magnitude of the protests, but because the police blocks the streets to normal traffic.
Protests exist only in Sofia and nowhere else in the country. Foreigners and people from the province come to Sofia to see the protestors as they would visit a tourist attraction.
But not everything with the protestors looks nice and friendly. A friend of mine who works at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, just next to the place of protests, told me he was not allowed to reach his office by protestors, as he didn’t have a card specifying his employer.
“This sounds like fascist militia,” I told him. “Looks like,” he replied.
The main issue with the protestors is that they don’t come up with proposals. Protestors don’t like the elections results, that’s clear. Protestors typically say that they didn’t vote at the last election, and are not prepared to vote in an early poll. If new elections are held, the stakes are high that the same political situation will be reproduced. Protestors claim they represent the opinion of a majority of Bulgarians. My question is: why protestors don’t get organised into a political party and get their share of parliament seats, and play the political game? I have my doubts and I think that the protestors are manipulated. Many probably don’t realise.
I’m not the only one who is critical of the protestors. The former Bulgarian king and former Prime Minister Simeon Saxe Cobourg Gotha wrote in his website that he has doubts to what extent the protestors are legitimate against the background of the people who have voted at the elections. He also criticised them for bringing their children to the protests and exposing them to strong “noises and offensive words”.
The former king also expresses concern over the hate speech visible in social media and as comments to articles in the internet. I read social media in several languages and always find that the most aggressive texts in the Internet are in Bulgarian language. Simeon says he worries that this aggression will damage the image of the country and scare tourists and investors.
“Our history is full of examples of far more difficult times in which we could not rely on external assistance and support. The entrepreneurial and strong Bulgarian spirit acted creatively and did not respond to provocations. Let us despite our differences try to find what can unite us to live better, to be more successful and happy,” this wise man wrote.Georgi Gotev