Bulgarian PM Defiant Despite Mass Anti-Govt Protesters

Bulgaria in EU | July 24, 2013, Wednesday // 11:36|  views

Bulgarian PM Plamen Oresharski. Photo by BGNES

Bulgaria’s embattled Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski has told The Wall Street Journal that he would remain in office despite the mass anti-government protests in the country.

Oresharski said the protests can continue indefinitely "as long as they are peaceful and abstain from provocations," with the police ordered not to intervene.

Responding to the criticism, Oresharski said that he recognizes the history of corruption involving business interests and the government, but said no one could be expected to resolve it overnight.

He also told The Wall Street Journal that it is "unacceptable" to be derided as fostering corrupt practices when he's only been in the office for a matter of weeks.

The Bulgarian PM’s interview came before riot police cracked down on protesters in front of the Parliament building in Sofia late on Tuesday.

Tuesday marked the 40th straight day of mass protests against the country’s embattled government – and for the first time, police clashed with demonstrators.

Tensions rose as lawmakers discussed a controversial budget update that envisages increasing the deficit by around BGN 500 M and increasing the borrowing limit by BGN 1 B. The budget revision was discussed at an ad hoc sitting starting 5 pm EET – and the unusually late hour allowed the evening rally to block the doors of a Parliament building full of officials.

Thousands of people chanted "mafia" and "resign", refusing to let three ministers and a number of lawmakers leave the building. Many journalists also remained trapped inside.

The rally turned bloody at around 10 pm, when a bus carrying the ministers of finance, labor and economy, as well as an undisclosed number of ruling MPs, attempted to leave Parliament under heavy guard.

Protesters forced the bus to retreat, and several of them were slightly injured by riot police.

By 2 am Wednesday, the protesters had reinforced the blockade with garbage cans, street signs and paving stones, blocking vehicles from leaving any of the exits from Parliament.
Officials were eventually escorted out of the building at around 5 am Wednesday, according to local media.

Some 10 people were injured, the Bulgarian National Radio says. No serious injuries have been reported.

The series of rallies was triggered by the appointment of notorious media mogul Delyan Peevski as Chair of the State Agency for National Security (DANS) back on June 14, but the protesters were not appeased by the subsequent cancellation of the decision and went on to demand the resignation of the Socialist-led cabinet over ties with oligarchs.

The protests were fueled by a number of other controversial appointments over the past several weeks, including that of ultranationalist party leader Volen Siderov as chair of the Parliament’s committee on ethics and conflict of interests.

Last week, Emil Ivanov, a man believed to be linked to one of the most notorious organized crime groups from the 90s, was appointed as Regional Governor of Sofia.

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Tags: blockade, parliamentary committee, budget revision, anti-government, protests, State Agency for National Security, Delyan Peevski, riot police, clashes, sofia, parliament, protesters, Plamen Oresharski


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