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Anti-Government Protests Against Corruption Intensify Across Bulgaria

Thousands of protesters gathered for a fifth day in central Sofia calling for the government to resign.
Thousands of protesters gathered for a fifth day in central Sofia calling for the government to resign.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Bulgarian capital of Sofia for a fifth-straight day on July 13 demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's government over corruption.

Protests were also held in at least 10 other cities, including Varna and Burgas on the Black Sea and the country’s second-largest city of Plovdiv.

In Sofia, protests denouncing corruption and mafia-like behavior in the EU member took place near the presidency and Council of Ministers.

Later they centered on the Interior Ministry, where demonstrators denounced alleged police violence at a previous protest and demanded the resignation of Interior Minister Mladen Marinov. The ministry said it is investigating the incident.

Protesters are also demanding the resignation of Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev.

The opposition Socialists, which back President Rumen Radev and the protests, have said they will put forward a motion of no confidence in the government on July 15, the same day mass demonstrations are planned.

Hristo Ivanov, the cochair of the opposition Democratic Bulgaria, which is supporting the protests, told RFE/RL that they want the government to resign within two weeks and elections to be called.

“People are taking to the streets and demanding change. The first step toward this change is the resignation of the government and the parliament and the convening of new elections," Ivanov said.

The protests were sparked by a raid on July 9 by the Prosecutor-General's Office on the presidential headquarters.

Public Anger

Radev's legal affairs and anti-corruption secretary and his security and defense adviser were detained for questioning and their offices searched as part of two separate probes into influence-peddling and disclosure of state secrets.

The searches sparked public anger and brought thousands of demonstrators onto the streets of Sofia to condemn the raids as an attack by the government and the prosecutor-general against Radev.

Radev responded two days later by calling on the government and the prosecutor-general to step down.

The searches came after Radev said the National Protection Service (NSO) -- which is responsible for guarding the president, prime minister, and other high officials -- should stop protecting Ahmed Dogan, the honorary chairman of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS).

Dogan is one of the most powerful people in Bulgaria. Many people consider his DPS, a largely ethnic minority Turkish party, to have control over the nation’s judiciary, including the prosecutor’s office.

Protesters were also angered when NSO members prevented people from going to a public beach located near Dogan’s summer residence on the Black Sea. Access to the beach was restored on July 11 under pressure from the center-right Democratic Bulgaria opposition.

The protests come amid rising political tension between Radev and the center-right government led by Borisov's GERB party ahead of general elections scheduled for March 2021.

Radev has often criticized Borisov's government for doing too little to uproot endemic corruption and has blasted prosecutors for cherry-picking their probes and colluding with the government.

Borisov, who has been prime minister almost without interruption since 2009, said at the weekend that his cabinet would not resign.

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