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The Montréal Review, February 2013


This month a new wave of protests swept one of the corners of the European Union. Bulgaria, the poorest member of the union, has been shaken by mass street protests inflamed by the high prices of electricity in December and January.

In early February, hundreds of thousands of people, many of them unable to pay their electricity bills, spontaneously went out on the streets chanting "Mafia, Mafia!" and "No to monopolies!" insisting for nationalization of the privately held electricity companies.

The Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov responded to the crisis dismissing the finance minister Simeon Dijankov and promised a revision of the price of electricity and revocation the license of CEZ, one the major electricity companies in the country. Yet the measures did not calm the people and the protests had grown against the government itself.

After a series of clashes with police that resulted in wounded and arrested protesters early this week (17-24 Feb.), the premier deposed his resignation with the words "I cannot watch a Parliament behind fences... I will not participate in a government where police beats out people." In his last speech, he also accused one of the opposition leaders, Ahmet Dogan, for commissioning an assault against him. The accusation was interpreted by the national media as the beginning of the campaign for a new parliamentary election. Ahmet Dogan himself became an international news this January after a participant at a party conference directed a gaz pistol to his head. Some suspect that Borisov would try to return to power in the early summer when the new elections are expected.

The government resignation did not stop the protests either. The people led by informal leaders without party affiliations are now planning a list with demands, as one of the central points in it is the implementation of independent citizen control in all important government institutions. Left without government and with main parties alienated from the people and cautious to exploit the protests
politically, the country is now in the hands of the President, Rosen Plevneliev, who is expected to nominate an interim cabinet soon.

Boyko Borisov became a Prime Minister of Bulgaria in 2009 after serving as a major of Sofia. Interesting facts from his professional biography-in the 1990s and 2000s he was the bodyguard of both the former communist leader Todor Zhivkov and the Bulgarian king Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. A rather populist and charismatic leader, without particular left or right ideas, Borisov won the Parliamentary elections with huge majority promising to crush corruption and throw the "red oligarchs" in jail. His government failed to deliver the promises. In the recent years, amid constant scandals for corruption, the government was more concerned with keeping strict fiscal balances and less with everyday problems of the impoverished population. While the middle-class Bulgarian complained for unpaid wages and melting incomes, the government prided itself for achieving fiscal stability in debt-ridden Europe and with its ambitious infrastructure projects.

The majority of political commentators in the country agree that Borisov was a populist who formed a one-person leadership party. They conclude that the incompetence of the government to deal with the economic problems, the lack of well-functioning judicial system, and the wide-spread poverty led to its end. The critics say that the quick resignation of Borisov left the country without any plan for resolving the problems, they call it an "abdication from responsibility".

After the fall of communism, three Bulgarian governments have been deposed from power under the pressure of the street- all because of unresolved economic problems. The difference is that while in the past the Bulgarian society had hopes and vision for its future-the post-communist socialist government of Andrei Lukanov was replaced in 1990 by the democratic, pro-western opposition; and the socialist government of Jean Videnov, ousted in 1997, opened the way for financial stabilization-now, the Bulgarian society is close to anarchy. After many years of political crises and economic failures, Bulgaria today is in the dead end of anger without hope.



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