By Clive Leviev – Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Behind a widened cordon sanitaire guarded by lines of police, Bulgaria’s half-empty Parliament – pelted with vegetables by protesters – resumed activities on June 27 after its sitting the previous day was cancelled for lack of a quorum.
The parties involved in seeking to keep the Bulgarian Socialist Party government afloat – the BSP, Movement for Rights and Ataka – hit out at their several thousand critics and political enemies, seeking a tougher line from the Interior Ministry against the continuing protests calling for the resignation of the government.
From socialist and other circles defending what the protesters see as an administration bereft of credibility, there also have been increasingly direct criticisms of President Rossen Plevneliev, who has praised the conduct of the protesters.
On the evening of June 26, socialist MP and Speaker of Parliament Mihail Mikov spoke live on public television and radio in reaction to the events of the day, which saw Parliament left without a quorum while outside about 1000 protesters gathered for a “drink a coffee at Parliament” event during which abuse was hurled at those BSP and MRF MPs who came to the House.
Tomatoes were thrown at the building of the National Assembly, prompting Mikov to say that “aggression and violence” had been demonstrated at the building of Parliament.
Mikov said that the “intensive legislative work” of Parliament was the answer to the needs and expectations of Bulgarians. The socialist MP sought to portray the protests as the result of pressure from big players in the energy sector opposed to reforms.
He said that the energy sector reforms had been agreed at a meeting of the Consultative Council on National Security in February and challenged Plevneliev to say whether he supported them.
Mikov also lashed out against the media, including by implication the public broadcast media, in messages in which there was common ground with a diatribe by ultra-nationalist Ataka leader Volen Siderov.
Siderov, who unlike the previous day showed up for Parliament on June 27, told the BSP, MRF and few Ataka MPs present – the GERB benches were empty – that major national media were working in support of those who were “plotting a coup”.
These media were working at the orders of foreign monopolies that were “afraid of the possible measures of the new government against the monopolies in Bulgaria, these companies are squandering millions to maintain the colonial burial of Bulgaria,” in the view of Siderov.
Siderov described participants in the protests as “hooligans”.
He criticised the Interior Ministry officers who watched these “hooligans and their terrorist actions, even after 10pm, watching them attacking the head offices of the parties and do not bother sanctioning them. The behaviour of the Interior Ministry is inadequate,” Siderov said.
He also criticised the Interior Ministry for failing to check the identity documents of protest participants.
At the parliamentary sitting on June 27, BSP and MRF MPs applauded their decision to vote into office two deputy prime ministers, Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev and Daniela Bobeva.
Outside Parliament, Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov said that his office was maintaining regular contact with the Interior Ministry about attempted provocations at the protests but saw nothing of concern in the protests themselves: “It’s very important for the protests to continue to be democratic – the way we see it at the moment”.
In a June 26 statement, President Plevneliev said that the greatest merit of the street protests was their peaceful nature. The statement said that the head of state was following closely the protests and the demands of the protesters, as well as the clear appeals by organisers and participants to keep the protests tolerant and peaceful.
According to a report by Bulgarian news agency BTA, InvestBulgaria Agency Executive Director Borislav Stefanov told journalists that investor attitudes have not been affected by recent political developments in the country. He said that it was important how and in what way the situation would be resolved.
But for now, as a minority government clings to power and seeks to portray itself as able to fulfil the demands of the thousands of protesters against it – even though the first among those demands is that the government resigns – it remains unclear how the situation will be resolved.