Bulgaria: protests against Borisov continue

For weeks thousands of Bulgarians have been demonstrating against Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's government. The protesters accuse it of maintaining close links to criminal oligarchs. Borisov has reacted by announcing social measures to cushion the impact of the coronavirus crisis and dismissing five ministers. Most commentators still believe the end of the Borisov era is approaching.

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hvg (HU) /

PM has something to show for himself

The prime minister can pat himself on the back for what he's done for the Bulgarians despite his links to corruption, hvg points out:

“Boyko Borisov likes to pretend that no one can secure as much EU funding or maintain such a firm grip on it as he can. For the time being there's no way around him. His party is by far the most popular. ... Yes, the Borisov government hasn't done enough to fight corruption or promote judicial reform - two preconditions for joining the Schengen Area. But what the PM can rightly assert is that he has brought our country into the antechamber of the Eurozone.”

Dnevnik (BG) /

Does Brussels have nothing to say about this?

It's high time the EU took a stand on the protests in Bulgaria, Dnevnik demands:

“If the European heads of state and government do not respond appropriately to the calls of the citizens of a member state for justice, the rule of law and democracy, it will have a negative impact on the entire EU. ... German, French and Swedish taxpayers are interested in what the EU spends their taxes on. The protests against corruption in Bulgaria affect everyone. ... When the European Public Prosecutor's Office starts working at the end of the year, it should look into how the Bulgarian government spends EU funds. The only problem is that by then it could be too late.”

Ukrayinska Pravda (UA) /

New government won't change much

A return of the Socialists to power would affect foreign policy more than anything else, Artem Filipenko of the National Institute for Strategic Studies comments in Ukrayinska Pravda:

“The problem is that since the protests of 2013-2014 in Bulgaria, no political force that is not linked to the oligarchs has emerged from a citizens' initiative. ... For that reason a return of the Socialists to power - and that is the most likely outcome of early elections - will not radically change the situation in the country. Because they're no less corrupt than [Borisov's conservative] Gerb party. Bulgaria's foreign policy, however, could become more Russia-friendly. It's no coincidence that Russian flags were to be seen in the anti-government actions staged by the Socialists away from the major protests.”

Dnevnik (BG) /

The government has misunderstood

The social measures passed as a coronavirus package - including a pension increase of the equivalent of 25 euros a month and a three-month extension of unemployment benefits - will only further incite the demonstrators, believes Dnevnik:

“The protest is political but the government is interpreting it as social. The protesters are calling for the government to resign, and it responds with social benefits. The United Patriots [junior partner in Borisov's coalition government] offered the PM this clumsy crutch, and he gratefully accepted it as a saving grace. … Will this tax money which had been put aside for the elections [in spring 2021] now appease the protesters - or will it only stir them up all the more? The answer will come from the streets.”

Duma (BG) /

Only resignation can calm protesters

Borisov won't get away with just a purely cosmetic restructuring of his cabinet this time, says Duma:

“Borisov's well-known trick of saving his own skin by having other politicians resign won't work this time. Tens of thousands of people in various cities across the country are demanding the government's resignation. They are disgusted by the arrogance of Borisov and his gang, their thieving, their vulgarity and their lack of any form of restraint. And what is he offering them? A pro-forma cabinet reshuffle without changing the way they govern in the least.”

Duma (BG) /

Blind and deaf to criticism for too long

The difference with previous protests is that this time the demonstrators are not demanding social welfare improvements but the resignation of the government and criminal prosecution of those who abuse their power, Duma explains:

“Borisov does not seem to understand that these are not social protests. This time the people want one thing only - his resignation. ... It's over, Borisov! You were blind and deaf to all warnings that you would drive Bulgaria into a wall. It's time to take responsibility for the atrocities that have made Bulgaria the poorest and most backward country in the EU.”

Ukrayinska Pravda (UA) /

Pro-European stance just a cover for corruption

Artem Filipenko of the National Institute for Strategic Research analyses the political situation in Ukrayinska Pravda:

“It is comparable to that in several other Eastern European countries where corruption also has political overtones. Formally this is a conflict between centres of power in which one side claims to be pro-European while the other shows more sympathy for the East. Aligning oneself with Europe often serves to cover up a corrupt system. And it's the same with the other side, which claims to fight corruption but in fact also wants more power and access to financial supplies. … A snap election will hardly do much to bring about a major change: polls show that [President Borisov's party] Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) can still count on the voters' support.”

Sega (BG) /

Now or never

The Bulgarians now have a rare opportunity to disempower the corrupt elite, writes Sega:

“What is happening on the streets of Sofia and several other major Bulgarian cities right now will certainly go down in history - either as a successful attempt by the sovereign people to regain power over their state or as scientific proof that an incompetent, shameless and criminal gang can cling to power to such an extent that you can't even bomb it out of existence with a cannon. It's now or never. If it doesn't work this time, the next attempt won't be for another seven to ten years - if there's anyone left in Bulgaria by then, that is.”

Dnevnik (BG) /

We can only succeed together

An alternative to Borisov will be found, but first of all the protesters must remain united, writes Vesselin Stojnev in Dnevnik in an article originally published by the Bulgarian service of Deutsche Welle:

“As long as the resignation of the government and Chief Public Prosecutor Ivan Geshev remains the common goal of the protesters, they must display unity. If we want to win back our state, we cannot succeed by following separate paths. ... Regardless of who ends up governing in the future, a constitutional majority must be achieved to ensure that there is no new Geshev. In order to topple the government as well as to make decisive reforms possible after the elections, a broad coalition of protesters is needed, even if it doesn't result in a government coalition.”