Correspondence from Bulgaria
Translated by ReINFORM
Correspondence from Bulgaria: “The events and developments of the Bulgarian Winter”
Up to this time, protesting has been taking place daily (from February, 12 until today, March, 3). Every afternoon people gather at the city centers and protest. This happens in over 40 cities and villages, even in areas where no protests had ever happened before.
The protests initially targeted the recent extremely high electricity and heating bills (one pays these two separately in Bulgaria). In the meantime, in the city of Varna, a citizen had set himself on fire as a means of protest. His condition is still critical. This was followed by even more massive demonstrations, which were initially peaceful (as had been announced on the Internet), but changed to violent ones. This happened mostly in Sofia where people with their faces covered with hoods were at the at the first lines of confrontation with the police. The presence of young members of neonazi and far-right groups has been reported, who have been gathering and organizing at sports fan clubs before the demonstrations. Many, mostly peaceful protesters, where injured in these confrontations with the police, since the police attacked almost anyone it could, especially on the night of February 19. Considering the norm in protests in Bulgaria, this is something unheard of.
After 10 days of continuous protesting and a people who were not giving in to efforts of terrorization, Boiko Borisov, the prime minister of Bulgaria announced the resignation of his cabinet on February 20, since the resignation of his finance minister Simeon Djankov the previous day did not prove to be enough to calm down the situation in the entire country. Elections were planned for July, but will now take place in May. Many believe that this was done to avoid pushing the situation to extremes, so that the ruling party can have a chance to get reelected.
In the meantime, however, the demonstrations had already been transformed into protests against the corrupted political system of Bulgaria of the last 23 years (since the fall of communism in the country in 1989 until the present day). People continue going on the streets with slogans such as “We do not want the same faces in the same game, but a change of the system!”. The political parties, now more than ever, have lost credibility, since all these years every party coming to power had been promising changes that were never carried out. The organized demonstrations are strictly against the political parties and are called online (mostly on facebook), most of the times by citizens, as had happened in the city square movements in Greece, Spain and the Arabic Spring.
Despite the massive radicalization and rage against the political parties, the people have not yet managed to create a general direction of a possible counter-proposal. It is a fact that in the demonstrations participate in common from nationalists-fascists to self-organized anticapitalistic and anti-racist initiatives (for example people from the Bulgarian “Occupy” group that arrive with a banner with the words “We’re done with the self-deception. Self-organization – daily social action!”). This explosive composition of the demonstrations peaked on February 24, when the activist block with the anticapitalistic and direct-democratic slogans was subject to an attack by the young fascists-hooligans that were also part of the demonstration. Some of the activists (including women) were hit by these so-called “patriots”. The reaction of the simple citizens who tried to stop the fascists shouting “Provocateurs!” and the self-collected reaction of the activist block helped end this situation. It is true that the presence of extreme-rightists in the demonstrations has influenced the slogans heard. Slogans such as “Hero Bulgarians!” and “No more new mosques in Sofia” as well as the national anthem of Bulgaria are routinely heard. Furthermore, during the demonstrations, only Bulgarian flags are allowed.
On the other hand, various tensions and proposals have been developed by citizens such as: writing a new constitution, changing the system on the basis of the Icelandic model of governance, participation and citizen control on power. For this reason, general assemblies of citizens have formed wherein people try to formulate their requests. Also, around two or three electronic platforms have been developed where people can vote and form proposals. On the 1st of March a Bulgarian social forum was created in Sofia to highlight subjects as: direct democracy, social ecology and participatory forms of economy. The Bulgarian people for the first time are getting in a process of dialogue and search for grassroots alternatives and, despite the various difficulties, this alone is an important precedent for the movement. Its results remain to be seen, what is important, however, is that we woke up!
(The original article in Greek can be found at: http://efimeridadrasi.