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Bulgarians in revolt against a country 'parcelled out to business interests'

A month of continuous demonstrations against the Bulgarian government has brought the Balkan state’s population alongside struggles in Egypt, Brazil and Turkey that are directly challenging political systems.

Bulgaria is the poorest member of the European Union and heavily dependent on aid from Germany and France. The country which once had a rich agricultural sector is also importing most of its food from the richer EU states.

The Russian newspaper Pravda observed:

There are barely any local products in stores, everything is imported. Meat comes from Germany, tomatoes from Turkey and Greece, garlic from China, potatoes from the Czech Republic. This happens in the country with the annual average of 320 days of sunshine and fertile soil. Bulgarian authorities consider local production unprofitable.

The crisis is so bad that the country’s health system is on the point of collapse because high numbers of medically-trained staff have quit the country to work in other EU states.

Earlier this year, a mass movement brought down a right-wing government. Now the target is the regime led by the country’s Socialist Party. The party came out of the ruins of the Bulgarian Communist Party which had presided over a Stalinist regime until the revolutions that swept Eastern Europe in 1991 led to its collapse.

Yesterday, the embattled government, which has assumed many characteristics of the old regime, denied speculation that it was about to resign. The foreign minister went on TV to urge protesters to “focus on a more positive direction with specific requests for specific policies, not just calls for resignation of the government."

This pathetic plea is certain to fall on deaf ears, however. The mass of the population is impoverished, cannot afford energy prices and sees the government of prime minister Plamen Oresharski as highly corrupt.

The current round of streets protests was triggered by the decision to appoint media mogul Delyan Peevski as – wait for it – national security chief. The government eventually abandoned the decision, but this only emboldened the protests. Now the opposition nationalist and right-wing parties are threatening to boycott parliament, a move that could force the resignation of the government.

In the last week, demonstrators have once again poured onto the streets of the capital Sofia, with the country’s “corrupt” political system in the firing line. They gathered in front of the parliament chanting “mafia,” “resignation,” “go away with peace.”

The demonstrators clashed with riot police on several occasions as they decided to change tactics and blockade the parliament building. Up to 10,000 people have been out on the streets every evening since June 14.

At the last rally, Viktoria Katova, a 24-year-old protestor, said: “Things can't get any worse. I'd rather go for 10 snap elections in a row than put up with this corrupt, insolent political class that pretends it does not notice us”.

Another 55-year-old protester, physical education teacher Nikolay Staykov, said: “This isn't democracy. Bulgaria has been parcelled out to different business circles... what we have here is a state mafia. All the parties are the same... We must wipe all that out and build the political system up from scratch.”  

The situation has so disturbed the EU bureaucracy that the French and German governments issued an unprecedented joint statement and had it published in the country’s mass circulation paper.

“It is clear that the Bulgarian public insists that the political, administrative, judicial and economic elites subscribe to the principles of public interest. It is obvious that the society fears the penetration of private interests in the public sphere,” the statement said. There was, they added, no room for the “oligarchic model” in the EU.

Yet it is this oligarchic-type of merging between state and corporate interests that is now pretty universal, not just throughout the EU but in most capitalist countries. This is one of the key factors behind a wave of global struggles. Behind them are not only economic demands but aspirations for political democracy. That’s what makes them revolutionary.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor
15 July 2013

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