As high-profile protests rage in the streets of emerging powers Turkey and Brazil, similar demonstrations of mass discontent have also been witnessed in a more obscure country -- the Balkan nation of Bulgaria, the poorest state in Europe.
Thousands of people gathered in the streets of Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, last weekend to protest the appointment of a notorious and reportedly corrupt media magnate as the head of the national security agency. Opposition parties also boycotted parliament in protest over the appointment of Delyan Peevski, owner of the country’s largest newspaper, and part of a media empire. (There were no other candidates for the position after a potential rival walked out.)
In response to this unrest, parliament (by a unanimous vote) canceled the appointment of Peevski, while Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, who has been in office for less than a month, even apologized for the episode. But he refused to step down. “I made a political mistake, for which I apologize not only to you but to the thousands of people who took to the streets to protest,” the prime minister told Parliament. “They called for my resignation, and I heard that clearly.” Oresharski cautioned, however, that it would be “highly irresponsible” for him to resign now, citing such an action would lead to a "bigger political crisis.”
Earlier, some of Oresharski’s nominees for the cabinet had to step down over allegations of corruption. “People are ready to defend their rights and demand their voice be heard,” Vladimira Vladimirova, a marketing consultant who participated in the protest, told the Financial Times. “Any attempt at manipulation will face [a] strong reaction.” Vladimirova, as well as thousands of other Bulgarians, had called for the prime minister to step down, chanting “resign, resign” and “elections now” and calling the leader “red trash.”
Indeed, this was already the second time this year that the Bulgarian people gathered in the streets to protest against their political leaders. In February, the entire government resigned, including former Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, after nationwide protests railed against high electricity prices and the austerity budget.
Peevski, only 32, is a member of Bulgaria’s ethnic Turkish minority, and he belonged to the Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedom, a junior party that forms part of the ruling coalition with the socialists that supports Orecharski. Protesters and opposition figures feared that if Peevski became the head of national security, he would gain access to sensitive intelligence reports and many secret files.