by Iveta Cherneva
For the last thirty days, Bulgarians have been out on the streets protesting against Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski and his government. Between 10,000 and 50,000 Bulgarians can be heard chanting in the evenings during protests colored with folklore dancing, singing, drumming, and children’s artwork. The protests in Bulgaria—along with those recent and ongoing in Turkey, Brazil, and Egypt—represent a global movement with a common demand: a more responsive political system.
Bulgarian protestors are fed up with illegitimate government appointments that are prevalent in the new regime, and they rally in the thousands every night against organized crime and mafia-oligarchy-government ties. “The last straw” that drove Bulgarians into the streets was the appointment of media mogul Delyan Peevski as National Security Chief. He resigned after just two days on the job as a result of the massive outcry. The protests—powered by social media—did not stop there, however. Peevski’s appointment was followed by at least three other controversial senior appointments that seem to be building widespread solidarity among Bulgarians for the resignation of the political caste.
In a “Twitter Revolution” that builds on social media solidarity, Bulgarians are raising their voices in a popular uprising characterized by peaceful creative protests. Participants bring their dogs, infants, creative slogans, acts, and dances to marches. Twitter has been instrumental in keeping the protests peaceful by spreading time-sensitive information about the location of violent groups known to be playing agent-provocateur roles.
Powerful actors in the region have not remained silent. In an unprecedented move, the Ambassadors of France and Germany supported the Bulgarian protests in a joint statement and warned the Oresharski government that it needs to cut ties with oligarchy. France and Germany are responsible for forty percent of the EU funding that Bulgaria receives, and the communiqué served as a warning sign to Oresharski that those funds could be cut if Bulgaria’s government does not respond to demands for a permanent break-up of the oligarchic system.
After 300 plus kilometers of street marched on by Bulgarian protestors, the government of Plamen Oresharski is still in power. However, the Oresharski government looks unlikely to last under the pressure that is now mounting on both the domestic and international level. Protestors are calling for immediate reforms of current election laws to ensure fair elections that don’t reproduce the current political map.
Demonstrations reached the one-month mark on July 14, and Bulgarians remain vigilant and active. Protestors say they will continue to take to the streets until Prime Minister Oresharski resigns and new parliamentary elections take place. Something remarkable is happening in Bulgaria. Civil society is awake, much to the approval of Europe’s watchful eye. Europe, Bulgarians have arrived.
About the Author
Iveta Cherneva is an author and commentator on global governance and international organizations, security, human rights, and sustainability. Her career includes work for the UN, U.S. Congress, Oxford University, and think tanks in several of the world's diplomatic capitals. Iveta is the author of Trafficking for Begging (2011); The UN Security Council, the ICJ, and Judicial Review (2013); editor of The Business Case for Sustainable Finance (2012); and co-author of Regulating the Global Security Industry (2009). Appointed Atlantic Council young leader in 2012 and William H. Donner Human Rights Fellow in 2007, she is a frequent commentator in international news media. Iveta has testified before the UN Working Group on business and human rights.