The Arts Nation: What Awaits Bulgaria? Asen Andreev

The Bulgarians are an arts nation – while the politicians put on theatre and circus performances, the people dance!

In the last week tens of thousands of Bulgarians gathered on the streets and protested. Having in mind that the people in Turkey, Brazil and Greece are doing the same, you may wonder why this is so significant – riots, violence, people fighting for their survival in their own countries. Well, the Bulgarians dance! And paint! They give away colorful balloons and respect the policemen that are taking care of the protests. 

It might sound naïve, but this way of protesting might appear to be much more effective. 

In order for a dramatic change in a country to take place, the most important precondition is the readiness of the nation. The Bulgarians keep telling that they are in transition since 1989 and it has never been clear when it will be over. Surely a nation in transition is not matured enough for a real democracy.  

But if you happen to walk around Sofia these days and watch the protests, you are likely to think the transition is coming to its long expected end. Whole families with their kids and dogs are there,  people are carrying positive posters and they insist on change, instead of just waiting for it to happen as a miracle. 

Who are those 20 000 people on the streets in Bulgaria?

They are young and well-educated, they have their jobs, they pay taxes, they take care after their families and they don’t want to be quiet any more. They weren’t expected, as the blogger Dimitar Nikolov commented. The politicians seem to have forgotten about them and they apparently have failed to understand the power of social media. 

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This failure is obvious in the unsuccessful attempts of the party ATAKA to incorporate provocateurs in the protests. Several groups of young men that wanted to cause disorders were spotted, but the real protestors have reacted immediately: they have circled them and have shouted “Provocateurs!”, so that the police could check their documents – it appeared that some of them were with criminal record and some didn’t have any documents at all. 

Talking about the police…

One of the things that distinguished the Bulgarian protests from those in other countries is that the protesters know the policemen are just doing their job. Outside their working hours they are just normal people, facing the same problems as everyone else. That is why bottles of mineral water and hugs were given to the policemen. In return, the syndicate of the police came up with a letter in which they clearly show they don’t want to protect “mentally unstable politicians.” 

At no point does the letter cite the name of any politician, but it is rather obvious that it's referring to Volen Siderov – the leader of ATAKA. Today the National Security Council was forced to stop its meeting, because of the behavior of Mr. Siderov – instead of thinking about possible solutions of the current political situation which has indeed been the objective of the gathering, Mr. Siderov started provoking the other participants. 

Earlier this week a video in which Mr. Siderov avoids questions from journalists and assaulting them and the former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov instead, circled the internet. The ordinary protesters don’t assault any politicians. They just want their resignation. They want new people on the political stage and this can happen only after the electoral legislation has been changed. 

WANTED: DEMOCRACY 

One of the common things between the protests currently taking place around the world is beeing a strain for democracy. In Bulgaria democracy was breached days before the media magnate Peevski was appointed to the head of the State Agency for National Security. 

In order for his application to be successful, legislation was changed and requirements for work experience were reduced. Furthermore, the agency was made responsible not only for internal and external security of the country but also for dealing with organized crime. Concentrating more power with less people is indeed not one of the characteristics of democracy. 

After the pressure from the protests, the Prime Minister Oresharski has stepped back from his decision to appoint Mr. Peevski for the position. However, before the actual appointment Mr. Peevski was a MP and enjoyed parliamentary immunity. Had the appointment went without being noticed, he wouldn’t have been responsible for any criminal offence he has committed, according to the amended legislation that was introduced beforehand. That is why Mr. Oresharski is talking about an abolishment of the decision. An abolishment is legally not possible, since the position has been accepted by Mr. Peevski. The only legal possibility is for him to be dismissed, as lawyer Mr. Grozev commented for Dnevnik. 

Where should this colorful protests lead to?

Elections after elections won’t change anything, especially if the only difference is a couple of  more or less seats for the same old parties. 25% of the votes on the elections on the 12th of May went to parties that didn’t make it into the parliament. Or, in other words, a quarter of the voters are currently left unrepresented. In order for this to change and more new faces to enter the parliament, the electoral code should be changed. 

And if the bright protests have a happy end, the next government will be much more colorful as well – for the first time in 24 years people won’t be voting for the smallest “devil”, but for their ideas, their dreams and their new leaders. 

We thank Asen Andreev for the photographs 

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