The Bulgarian journalist Vladimir Mitev sees sincere emotion and not a conspiracy behind the protests in Bulgaria. But he is worried that beyond the calls for resignation of the government, the protests could be directed against the people by the very oligarchy, against which it is being protested
Starting on 9 July 2020 every evening in Sofia and in the big cities of Bulgaria protests against the government and the chief prosecutor. The protester want “to take mafie outside the state”. In order to learn more about the developments in the neighbouring country, I discussed with Vladimir Mitev through a live streaming in Romanian language, which can be seen here.
This article was published on 13 July 2020 on the Romanian section of the site “The Barricade”.
Hello! Today we will talk to the Bulgarian journalist Vladimir Mitev about the protests in Bulgaria. Very few things are known about them in Romania. That is why I decided to discuss with Vladimir about what happens there, what are the reasons for the discontent and why the people have taken over the streets. Vladimir, when did the protests start and what was the event that unleashed the protests?
Greetings to all the viewers of our page in Romanian language in Facebook! The Bulgarian protests have started both logically and surprisingly, because apathy was dominating the Bulgarian society for a long time. There was an obvious discontent, bu the presence at the social protests so far was low. Now, surprisingly or not, tens of thousands of people have gone out on the streets of Sofia and the big cities. This is explained both by the gradual accumulation of tensions and by the events that took place in Bulgaria in the last week.
I found out that there was a search in the office of the presidential institution. What happened more exactly? As far as I understand the search took place in the cabinets of people, who are close to the president, because of corruption…
The reasons are complex and require a lot of context in order to be understood. It could be interesting for Romanians that recently there has been a kind of anti-corruption fight going in Bulgaria. At the same time there is an ongoing conflict between the institutions and between the people who conduct them. There was an evident conflict between the president Rumen Radev and the chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev. But the event, about which you speak, has a prehistory. I will try to make a review in short.
Hristo Ivanov – the leader of a non-parliamentary formation, which has support among the urban middle class – a formation, which is similar to the Union Save Romania in Romania and which is called “Yes, Bulgaria” has tried to reach from the sea to the beach next to the villa of Ahmed Dogan. He is the honorary leader of the movement of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms. It is known as the party of the ethnic Turks. But it is also the party of Delyan Peevski – an oligarch with influence in all the powers, including in the media and in the judiciary. For a long time in society there has been instigation against him or in the opposite direction. People and the public discourse consider Peevski and the prime minister Borisov as forces acting together or in coordination.
Hristo Ivanov was prevented from landing on the beach by the guards of the National Guard Service. Then the conflicts between the institutions were renewed. Borissov and Radev accused each other reciprocally about who protects Ahmed Dogan and who has to issue the decision for taking down the state guard from his villa.
In the context of these higher tensions the operation of the prosecution took place. It provoked the sensitivity of the people who support Radev in the conflict between the institutions. I remember how in the noon and afternoon of Thursday there were discussions about “coup d’etat” in the social networks. This is a very serious label, which was used by those who support Radev. I suppose that this operation, which was not related to corruption, but dealt with the handling of secret documents by the employees of the president, challenged the sensitivity of those who take the part of Radev.
I guess their logic was that Radev represents the last institution, which has not been subordinated to the powers that control the other institutions. In the thursday’s afternoon there was already a protest before the presidential office, which grew in the next days. It reached tens of thousands of people, which are not all obligatory fans of Radev, but were discontent and on the street because of the prosecution’s operation and the activity of Hristo Ivanov.
There are different groups on the street. Whenever something new in our societies happens, we think about a conspiracy. Who stands behind these or other protests? I can not say that a conspiracy can be found easily here. I think that on the basis of those protests stands a sincere emotion. But what will follow after it and already takes place is that the protests could be led into one or another direction which might not be to the benefit of the various categories of protesters.
Let us clarify the things. The prime minister Boyko Borissov is in a conflict with the president Radev. Whose side takes the protesters?
The great call of the protesters is for the resignation of Borissov and of the chief prosecutor Geshev. Radev is not the goal of the protests. He has already asked for the resignation of Borissov and Geshev. But the story is more complex, because the protests are heterogenous. I am convinced that on the street there are various people, who don’t associate themselves with Radev.
The role of Radev in this moment is to represent a state institution, which can channel the discontent, so that the trut in instituions is not completely lost in a moment, when the trust in the state institutions is not high.
How would you analyse those protests as a left-wing person? Is there a programme that they have or are they simply a venting of anger?
I think that the left tends to have the great idea of change. In Bulgaria and in other countries of the region, political regimes were built, which are called “stabilocracy” by political scientists. For a long time nothing has been changing in the Bulgarian society – in politics, socially, in the economy. So the members of the left circles are on the street in this moment.
What worries me as somebody who thinks about change, is related to the fact that the government and the prosecution, who are now the goal of the protests have made steps against a part of the oligarchy. These steps could be criticised, but they are also an attempt for the correction of some incorrect things that took place in the transition, according to some Bulgarians. There were oligarchs who were hit. Now along with the sincere citizens’ energy, the oligarchs, who were hit and who are not part of the present formula of power, will try to come back from the dark.
In this sense I am not obligated to be charmed by what happens. What is interesting about the left wing circles in Sofia is that they have created a bloc, a space inside the protests, where they distribute pamphlets, through which they promote direct democracy and citizens’ assemblies. They try to channel the people’s energy. Here I see some hope. For a long time the change does not lie only in the resignations of those who govern, but also in structural changes. In other countries change somehow can happen bottom up.
I thank you, Vladimir. We may discuss later again with more details in order to see how things evolve. I hope that what we discussed will be interesting for the Romanian-speaking public. We are very concentrated in Romania in distant countries, but don’t see a lot of what happens next to us.
Thank you, Vladimir! Have a nice day!
Photo: The Bulgarian president Rumen Radev affirms himself in the present political crisis, because he represents a state institution, which is able to channel the discontent (source: president.bg)
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