SOFIA -- Anti-government protesters returned to the streets of the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, pressing demands for the resignation of the government and the prosecutor-general.
The rally on September 10 marked the 64th consecutive day of protests against the ruling conservative GERB party and its government in the Southeastern European nation’s deepening political crisis.
Protesters, monitored closely by police, gathered outside the National Assembly building in Sofia, shouting, “Mafia out!” and demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s government and Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev.
The September 10 rally appeared to take place without major incident. On September 2-3, several thousand people joined the so-called Grand National Uprising in response to what protesters say is oligarchic control over Bulgaria’s government and judicial system.
Violence on that day led to scores of injuries and the arrest of 126 people, including what police described as more than 60 football hooligans.
Opinion polls show that more than 60 percent of Bulgarians support demands for Borisov and Geshev to resign and for immediate parliamentary elections to be called.
Borisov has said he is prepared to step down following parliamentary elections currently set for March 2021.
On July 21, Borisov’s government survived a no-confidence vote in parliament, the fifth such vote since it took power in 2017.
The demonstrators have protested against Borisov's government over perceived ties to the country’s powerful oligarchs.
They also claim that Geshev has targeted government critics, including Socialist-backed President Rumen Radev, who has supported the protests.
The protests were sparked by a raid on July 9 by the Prosecutor-General's Office on the presidential headquarters.
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 alleged 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.
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.
Bulgaria is the European Union’s poorest country and remains corruption-ridden, according to Transparency International's corruption perception index.
With reporting by AFP