SOFIA -- Thousands of people marched in cities across Bulgaria on July 29, marking three weeks of protests to demand the resignation of the government and the prosecutor-general.
The protesters blocked several major intersections in the capital, Sofia, during business hours, bringing traffic almost to a standstill. They blew whistles and vuvuzelas and rang bells, turning the protest into a noisy procession as they called for the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
Protesters accuse the government of maintaining links to the mafia, refusing to fight corruption and reform the judiciary, and suppressing freedom of speech. They say Borisov has done nothing to stop corruption and curb the hold of tycoons over the economy.
People chanted, “Borisov, you are a shame and a disgrace” and “Resignation” as they ignored a ban on large gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some wore white masks and clothing.
The protests in Sofia and other cities were bigger than in previous days, according to RFE/RL’s Bulgarian Service. In the evening, a huge crowd gathered in front of the government headquarters singing the national anthem and waving national flags.
Participants in Sofia vowed to remain in the streets until their demands are met. Those arriving from other parts of Bulgaria were urged to bring tents, blankets, water, and food in preparation for an extended protest, which have been mostly peaceful.
The protests were sparked by a raid three weeks ago by the Prosecutor-General's Office on the headquarters of President Rumen Radev, a critic of the government. They have continued despite Borisov replacing four ministers last week in a reshuffle meant to end calls for his resignation.
The raid was followed by several incidents exposing the government's protectionist policies against powerful oligarchs that brought public anger to the boiling point.
Radev is backing the protesters, saying Borisov and Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev should step down. In a public address to the nation, Radev spoke about the deep anger of the protesters.
“It has been piling up for years and cannot be suppressed by fear and force,” he said.
Borisov said in a video posted on Facebook that people have the right to protest but not to close intersections and interfere with people’s normal life.
Borisov, 61, has been in power since 2009 and his third four-year term is scheduled to end in March. He has vowed to carry out the term, dismissing the calls for his resignation.
Thirteen years after joining the European Union as its poorest country, Bulgaria has also remained the bloc's most graft-prone member state, according to Transparency International's corruption perception index.
Protesters In Bulgaria Turn Up Volume On Call For Government Leaders To Resign