Bulgaria’s Students, Educators Stand Together in ProtestViews on BG | November 8, 2013, Friday // 19:45| views
Photo by Sofia Photo Agency
By Sean Carney
Wall Street Journal
Ninety Bulgarian university professors and teachers Thursday gave support to their students and said the left-leaning, Socialist Party-led government is using “arm-twisting” and “totalitarian” tendencies to try and snuff out criticism from students who have been gathering on campuses around the country in recent weeks and calling for the government to step down.
“We are seeing the use of various forms of pressure on students who express their protest against lies and tycoonization of Bulgarian political and social environment,” the educators said in a joint statement.
Students began protesting on college campuses in late October at Sofia University when they blockaded a building in a peaceful protest and called for the government to resign. This has spread to at least 15 other locations and is reminiscent of the Occupy movement in the United States in 2011.
“Our ultimate goal is for Bulgaria to become a country with governance, grounded in moral values rather than personal benefits,” the protesting students said in a declaration issued Tuesday.
Government officials were not immediately available to answer questions on the accusations and whether the government will resign.
Charges that the country is under mafia-type influence the favors only a few are not new.
This summer Bulgaria’s President Rosen Plevneliev said that much of the country’s economy is controlled by oligarchy and media freedom is stifled by special interests.
The country’s Education Minister Aneliya Klisarova earlier this month met with students, yet that was not with those occupying Sofia University. Ms. Klisarova said students’ concerns are political and they don’t belong on college campuses. She would like protesters to stand down.
Education Ministry officials didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski routinely meets with protesters. However, according to organizers of anti-government marches and rallies, the government isn’t speaking with “real” protesters at those monthly meetings. Rather the cabinet officials meet with pro-government groups and then uses footage of the meetings in government-friendly media to put a positive spin on things, they allege.
The cabinet did not respond to questions on these meetings.
Anti-government protests have been a fact of daily life in capital city Sofia since June when mostly middle-class citizens took to the streets to protest the government naming a media mogul a head of the country’s security agency. The government then found another person for the job but protests have continued.
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