Bulgaria’s Reformist Bloc in talks on widening anti-government protests

Bulgaria’s Reformist Bloc in talks on widening anti-government protests

The meeting with Bulgarian protesters in Brussels: Noresharski.com

By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of the Sofia Globe

Bulgaria’s opposition Reformist Bloc, a group of right-wing and centrist parties currently without representation in Parliament, has held talks with student protest groups on a united front of protests to bring down the highly unpopular Bulgarian Socialist Party government.

The talks followed a second and short-lived occupation by a group of students of Sofia University’s central campus to demand the resignation of the government.

Bulgaria has seen many months of consecutive daily protests against the BSP government, protests that first were sparked by public outrage at the appointment of media mogul Delyan Peevski, a Movement for Rights and Freedoms MP, to head the State Agency for National Security.

In recent months, turnout at nightly public protests has dwindled substantially, but polls – even by opinion survey agencies that tend to produce results in line with the outlook of the ruling axis – continue to show the vast majority of Bulgarians support demands for the government to resign and for fresh parliamentary elections to be held.

Radan Kanev, a leader of the Reformist Bloc, said that if the current government did not resign by March 15 to enable national parliamentary elections to be held on May 25 simultaneously with Bulgaria’s scheduled European Parliament elections, the EP elections should be regarded as a referendum on whether the current government should go.

He also called for a widening of protests around the countryside, so that protests were not confined to the central streets of Sofia near the parliamentary and cabinet offices and so that people elsewhere in Bulgaria could see for themselves the illegitimacy of the propaganda of the pro-government media.

Peevski’s family has a huge presence in media ownership in Bulgaria, and runs a number of propaganda lines, including alleging that centre-right former ruling party GERB and the Reformist Bloc have been funding and orchestrating the anti-government protests. No proof of these allegations ever has been offered and the allegations are denied by both parties.

Kanev, speaking after meeting representatives of student groups for the October-January occupation of Sofia University and of the hardline group that carried out the January 25-28 occupation, told reporters, “we came to a decision on the need for common action”. He added that the Reformist Bloc had no intention of carrying out joint protests with GERB.

Recently, GERB leader Boiko Borissov has spoken of bringing together a national rally of his party and all anti-government protesters for a major event outside Parliament. However, during the months of protest, it has been clear that many protesters, while rejecting the BSP government as utterly discredited, have no enthusiasm for a return of GERB to power.

Meanwhile, the media monopoly issue in Bulgaria was discussed in Brussels on January 28 during a visit to the European Parliament by representatives of the Bulgarian Protest Network and the “Early Rising Students”, the latter the group that organised the October-January university occupation protests.

Representatives of the Bulgarian Protest Network expressed the need for European institutions help their struggle against an increasingly censored media and political landscape in Bulgaria, calling the country a “suspended democracy”, a media statement sent out via anti-government information service Noresharski.com said after the meeting.

“Attacks and arbitrary arrests against journalists, independent media, and protesters are multiplying, jeopardizing the right of Bulgarian citizens to free expression and political participation.”

On the same day, representatives of the Bulgarian Protest Network and the Earlyrising students met with Telmo Baltazar, member of the Cabinet of Viviane Reding, EU Commission Vice-President for Justice, Fundamental Rights, and Citizenship, as well as numerous MEPs.

Giovanni Melogli and Lorenzo Marsili, initiators of the European Media Initiative, have reminded that the EU does have the tools to act, ranging from legislation against censorship and conflict of interest, to monitoring and ensuring the independence of supervisory bodies.

The European Media Initiative brings together 100 civil society organisations to collect 1 million signatures to pass European legislation against media concentration and conflict of interest, using the legal instrument of the European Citizens’ Initiative.

“It is now the time for the EU to use its powers and show it stands on the side of citizens and not on that of oligarchs,” Marsili said, “without a strong defence of fundamental rights of citizens within its borders, the moral authority of the EU in condemning repressions outside its borders, including in Ukraine and Turkey, would be seriously jeopardised “.