SOFIA -- Bulgarian President Rumen Radev has called on the government and the prosecutor-general to step down as thousands of citizens gathered in the capital and near a beach on the Black Sea to protest corruption within the nation’s elite.
Radev made the comments on July 11 after the Prosecutor-General's Office conducted a raid of his staff members two days earlier.
The search in the presidential office 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 to have control over the nation’s judiciary, including the prosecutor’s office.
Radev’s comments were prompted after it was discovered that NSO members were illegally keeping people away from a public beach that is located near Dogan’s summer residence.
On July 11, several thousand protesters made their way to the beach near Dogan’s residence, which is located about 400 kilometers from the capital, Sofia. The protesters demanded equal protection for all and access to the beach.
Some of the protesters made their way back to the capital in the evening for a third night of rallies against corruption and the ruling government. They chanted “resign” in front of the government building, the parliament, and Palace of Justice.
The protests came amid rising political tension between Radev and the center-right government of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov ahead of general elections next year.
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.