SOFIA -- Bulgaria’s prime minister has asked his finance, economy, and interior ministers to step down amid nationwide anti-corruption protests that have rocked the country for a week.
The press service of the Council of Ministers announced the move on the evening of July 15.
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's GERB party said in a statement he had decided to dismiss the three ministers to put an end to speculation that they were working in connivance with the opposition MRF party and its senior member, businessman and media owner Delyan Peevski.
Thousands of people have rallied in Sofia and other Bulgarian cities for seven days demanding the resignation of Borisov's government and Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev over rampant high-level corruption.
Protesters have also denounced police violence during protests in Sofia last week and called for Interior Minister Mladen Marinov’s resignation.
Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov has been under fire after SMS messages made public by businessman Vasil Bozhkov -- who is facing charges of tax fraud, attempted bribery, and organized crime -- showed that the two men communicated regularly until January 2020.
Revelations that the state-run Bulgarian Development Bank granted a $44 million loan to a small company also drew public discontent toward the Economy Ministry, led by Emil Karanikolov.
The anti-corruption protests were sparked by a raid on July 9 by the Prosecutor-General's Office on the presidential headquarters.
President Rumen 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 demonstrators have condemned the raids as an attack by the government and the prosecutor-general against Radev.
Protesters were also angered when members the National Protection Service (NSO) prevented people from using 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.
Borisov, who has been prime minister almost without interruption since 2009, has refused to resign.
His current term in office is due to end in early 2021.