news 24 Jul 13

Parliament Clashes Mar Bulgaria Anti-Govt Protests

Clashes with police erupted after demonstrators blockaded the Bulgarian parliament, preventing some 100 MPs from leaving the building on the 40th consecutive day of protests.

Victor Kotsev

The stand-off outside parliament lasted until the early hours of Wednesday after protesters erected barricades outside the building and threw lumps of pavement at baton-wielding riot police who made several attempts to break the blockade.

Interior minister Tsvetelin Iovchev called the incident “an attempted pogrom” and blamed provocateurs for the violence, while praising the police response.

Some Bulgarian observers also partly blamed agent provocateurs for the clashes, but also suggested that fatigue on the part of both police and protesters after daily demonstrations for over a month and dramatic media coverage by one of the major Bulgarian TV networks also contributed to the violence.

Philip Gounev, a former deputy interior minister and an analyst at the Sofia-based Centre for the Study of Democracy, said he believed that provocateurs had been involved in stirring up trouble.

But he also criticised police tactics, blaming officers for charging the crowd without trying to warn people beforehand and for not waiting longer before trying to break the blockade.

By Wednesday morning, the situation had calmed and municipality workers were clearing the rubble and repairing the pavement. The damage was estimated to be worth around 30,000 leva (15,000 euro).

The anti-government protests started following the appointment of a controversial media mogul, Delyan Peevski, as chair of the State Agency for National Security.

Although the appointment was revoked, demonstrators went on to demand that the Socialist-led cabinet of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski resign over ties with oligarchs.

Tensions have continued to rise, with one of the main Bulgarian trade union federations, KNSB, announcing on Wednesday that it was joining the protests, in a move that could dramatically raise the heat on the government.

“I still think it is too early to say that the protests will force the government out at this stage, but if this continues for a few weeks or months, it is possible,” said Gounev. 

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