In a televised speech on Friday, Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev urged political leaders to reach out to demonstrators who have taken to the streets against corruption every day for the last three weeks. Otherwise, said the head of state, the only solution will be to organise new elections.
“For 22 days now, continuing demonstrations take place in Bulgaria and I have yet to see a politician (…) take the situation into account and tell clearly to the nation what needs to be done,” Plevneliev said in his speech.
“If nothing else can help, if no attempt to find an agreement is made, then the only democratic solution is to organise elections” Plevneliev declared.
The previous legislative elections, triggered by a wave of sometimes violent demonstrations against poverty and corruption last winter, took place only as recently as May 12. The winter protests toppled the previous government led by Conservative Boïko Borissov.
With no clear winner in the polls, a technocratic government, backed by the Socialists, the Turkish ethnic minority party Movements for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) and other parties, was put in charge.
However, Plamen Orecharski, the new Prime Minister, is seen to have lost credibility soon after his appointment by nominating as head of the country’s National Security Agency a 32-year-old media mogul with a shady reputation, who happens to be a MRF MP.
Even if the PM has since backtracked and the nomination has been cancelled, between 5,000 and 10,000 people gather every day in the streets of Sofia to ask for the government’s resignation and the end of what they say is the oligarchy’s influence on political power.
Plevneliev, coming from the centre-right of the political spectrum, was elected in 2011 with the support of the party of Borisov, GERB. The president has since taken some distance from GERB.
If the head of state decides election dates, he cannot organise new elections unless the government resigns or the Parliament accepts to self-dissolve. PM Orecharski, an economist, has so far refused to resign and tried to calm the street’s anger with emergency measures against poverty and a reform of the electoral code allowing a better representation of smaller parties.
While he acknowledged the reforms, Plevneliev judged they fell short. “People are still in the streets, shouting Mafia!(…) How do the government and the opposition read this message and what concrete steps do they plan to present as an answer?” he asked.