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Clashes as students try to blockade politicians inside Bulgarian parliament

Clashes as students try to blockade politicians inside Bulgarian parliament
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University students have tried to blockade politicians inside the Bulgarian parliament in Sofia as part of an ongoing protest against alleged corruption and the way the country is run.

Hundreds formed a human chain outside the building, leading to clashes with riot police, also there in large numbers, who pushed them away with force.

The students, who have been staging sit-ins at universities, said the call to “occupy” parliament was an attempt to have their voices heard.

They want the Socialist-led government, which took office in May, to resign.

The previous administration was brought down by popular protests, and the current one is already under pressure from daily demonstrations.

Some students lay down to try to stop police patrol cars. Several were arrested and there were complaints of mistreatment.

“A police officer held a wrench in his hand, I asked: are you going to cut our faces with it, he said: ‘yes, that’s what I will do’,” said one young male protester bleeding from a cut near his eye.

The protest follows Sunday’s large “March of Justice” in Sofia, which attracted thousands of students.

University professors joined them in accusing the government of corrupt ties with business groups.

Twenty-four years after the end of communist rule in Bulgaria, protesters claim successive governments have failed to reform politics and lay the foundations for steady economic growth.

Membership of the European Union has brought prosperity to many, but has also encouraged young people to emigrate, leaving behind an ever older and poorer population, while the failure to entrench strict rule of law and combat graft has deterred the investment Bulgaria needs.

The average monthly wage is the lowest in the EU at just 400 euros, and the average pension just 130 euros.