This opened the door for the abuse of power and the public perception of this abuse that has now triggered another round of protests. It turned out that what was imported from Romania was the idea of an unrestrained chief prosecutor. Reputable indices, such as the Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International, Freedom Barometer by Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom for East and Southeast Europe, and the World Bank Governance Indicators, suggest that Bulgaria is the most corrupt EU member.. In the new Debates Digital talk, cultural anthropologist Ivaylo Ditchev gives unique insight into the on-going anti-corruption protests that have spread across Bulgaria since July. You [the people] are stupid too. But those who are really interested in progress, in raising the level of public discourse, promoting citizens’ demands and demanding the responsibility of public institutions, must present a coherent agenda for change. In contrast, no prominent Bulgarian politicians have been convicted, while some businesses of the accused have been closed down or nationalised. Chief Prosecutor Geshev has been critical of the role of judges in the judicial system, while a number of organisations of lawyers and judges have signed demands for his resignation. Vatican: Cardinal Becciu forced out in rare resignation. [1] “The Justice for All” community mentioned above opposes this model of fighting corruption. Myanmar: Military takes power and Aung San Suu Kyi detained. So, the anti-corruption protests in Bulgaria and the fight of Bulgarian civil society for rule of law and democratic reforms are everybody’s business. If the leaders of those currents fail to start explaining and debating their actions in a more lucid manner, these squabbles will become a meaningless spectacle, and the citizens might well fall back into their all too habitual apathy. Bulgaria started to develop its particular form of anti-corruption, consisting among other things in the creation of a specialised process of prosecution and specialised court and court procedure for confiscating illegally acquired property. In the meantime, Bulgaria received a road map in 2018 allowing it to enter the ERM II mechanism (the waiting room for the eurozone), which involved strengthening its technocratic structures. An investigation into the Bulgarian government’s spending of EU funds by the European chief prosecutor is necessary when the EPPO becomes operational in the end of the year. In 2016, Borisov claimed in an interview for Nova TV that, in contrast to Romania, there were no convicted Bulgarian ministers because no one in the government was corrupt. But there are differences too. It has been said that what we see in Bulgaria is a battle for the soul of Europe. Is the Bulgarian deep state interested in some form of muddy political water, in which all the unaware and naive players will unveil their agendas, while the political elites gradually manage a new equilibrium that fits the changing international context? The Bulgarian anti-corruption model started to take shape around the person and the activity of Ivan Geshev. The “Romanian model of anti-corruption” was lauded in the mass media as an exemplary model for delivering justice and building the rule of law. This model of anti-corruption empowered the middle class, the people with higher incomes, the businesses. Corruption and government inaction against convicted Roma criminal Kiril Rashkov sparked the 2011 anti-Roma riots. As Romanian Chief prosecutor from 2013 to 2018, she presided over numerous arrests of politicians, widely reported in the international press. Post-democracy: there's plenty familiar about what is happening in Bulgaria, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borissov remains defiant in the face of anti-government protests According to Reporters Without Borders, his media group consisting of 6 newspapers, “New Bulgarian Media Group” controls nearly 80% of print media distribution. Romania: De facto head of the country sentenced to 3 1/... Malaysia: Former deputy prime minister Zahid Hamidi cha... India: Supreme Court advises PM and CMs not to appoint tainted persons as ministers, China: Government takes control of Anbang Insurance Group, USA: Aitzol Iriondo Yarza of ETA movement was named as a terrorist, Brazil: Operation Car Wash collusion between judge and prosecutors. How to dismantle a democracy: the case of Bulgaria. Protesters responded with chants of "Geshev is a disgrace!" Delyan Slavchev Peevski is a Bulgarian politician, oligarch and media mogul. He was perceived as being weak on anti-corruption and in 2017 Rumen Radev, supported by the Socialist party, won the presidential elections by deploying among other things an anti-corruption rhetoric which appealed to right-wing voters as well. At the risk of oversimplifying things, Bulgaria’s mass protests can generally be divided into social movements and, distinct from this, protests against establishment corruption. Overview of the recent protests. Because of the high-level corruption, governmental abuses and the lack of judicial independence, Bulgaria demonstrates … Bulgaria is gripped in a political crisis, its biggest since 2013, when sustained protests against corruption brought down a center-left government. The Eight Dwarves is the name of a restaurant in Sofia, where a meeting took place that has come to epitomize the national malaise. Some observers say that the demonstrations were triggered by the 9 July 2020 raid on the Presidency of Bulgaria by police and prosecutors as a result of a long-standing conflict between the prime minister Boyko Borissov and the president Rumen Radev. Thousands of people gathered in the center of Sofia demanding the resignation of both Borissov and the country’s chief prosecutor, Ivan Geshev. Bulgaria currently ranks 111th in the world in the World Press Freedom Index. Anti-government protests in Sofia, Bulgaria, July 14, 2020. The Bulgarian prosecution publicises audio recordings and the chat messages of people who are not yet sentenced as guilty, but who are suspected of a crime. The constitution allows the parliament to overrule presidential vetoes with a simple majority. There is an expectation that the European Union, which has been deliberately blind to Bulgaria’s problems with the rule of law while it has been critical of Poland and Hungary, will intervene this time. Moreover, it was credited with Romania’s remarkable economic development, which quickly surpassed that of Bulgaria. Join us for this free event on 11 February at 5pm UK time/12pm EST. At that time, few efforts were made to elucidate the essence of the Romanian anti-corruption model. On September 2, the two-month-long anti-governmental protests in Bulgaria entered the most violent stage to date. However, at the same time it also significantly limited the access of the lower classes, detached from real economic power and withdrawn to their rural in-groups, to their own political representation in a democracy. But the rival corruption allegations leveled by both the Left and Right also highlight the lack of real political alternatives — with the country’s harsh social inequality and rising poverty levels drawing no similar political attention. Marching is the easy part in these protests. In mid-August, in an attempt to assuage public anger, Borissov said he would step down once the lawmakers elected a Grand National Assembly to amend the constitution. Political crisis in Bulgaria sparks protests and outrage. This was despite the fact that less than a year later he was imprisoned himself for having two party members paid by the state for fake jobs. The current anti-government protests can only be understood in light of the 2013 anti-corruption protests and their aftermath. There are other similarities between what was going on in Romania pre-2017 and what has been taking place in Bulgaria in the run-up to these protests. "Corruption and the justice deficit is a terminal issue," says Dimitar Bechev, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. Radev, who was elected in … They are a manifestation of widespread anger among the general public and its frustration over political corruption as … Demonstrators have gathered in Sofia every evening since early July. USA: Apple security chief’s attempt to bribe police with iPads. What is new about this movement, he says, is that it unites forces from the left and right political spectrum. Day 33 of the protests, Sofia, Bulgaria: Interview with Nikolay Hadjigenov and Arman Babikyan. In fact, the Romanian anti-corruption model is marked by a number of peculiarities. Presidency in Bulgaria is largely a ceremonial post without any actual power. The ‘Anti-corruption’ fight in Bulgaria that erupted again on July 9, 2020, is caught in a clash between two conflicting concepts of what is at stake by Vladimir Mitev This article was published at the Open Democracy site on 27 July 2020. Or is it an attempt to enlarge the scope of the anti-corruption campaign and target also the oligarchs who have hitherto enjoyed political protection? What are the values, the goals, the approaches, the indicators of success of each of their versions of anti-corruption? The only party with a formal position is the European Greens, who not only support the protests but also have criticised the positions of other EU parties. Bulgaria is experiencing its biggest anti-government protests in seven years amid a growing corruption crisis that has exposed how oligarchs have exerted control over key parts of the state such as the judiciary and the security apparatus. But one exception – “The pre-2017 ‘golden era’ of anti-corruption in Romania was a fake” – was the thoroughgoing 2019 interview on Romanian justice for the Bulgarian site “The Barricade” by the Romanian anti-corruption expert Codru Vrabie. Your email address will not be published. Protests have erupted throughout Bulgaria over the last week after a political leader of an opposition party attempted to access a public beach and was stopped by national authorities who were protecting a nearby mansion of a retired politician. He explained that Romanian anti-corruption was independent from political interventions, but owed its spectacular success to an unholy bondage to the secret services. But the protests are also ‘universal’: a conflation of all kinds of ideologies, ages and geopolitical allegiances can be found represented in the squares of the big cities. This was successfully exploited by the Socialist leader and local baron Liviu Dragnea, who mobilised resistance against the DNA, found support in parts of the state and managed to obtain the resignation of Kövesi. On International Anticorruption Day: are we winning against corruption? Therefore we understand each other [perfectly].”. What is less positive is that the two big Bulgarian anti-corruption currents – the one behind Ivan Geshev and the one opposing him, are incapable of communicating a clear and consistent anti-corruption vision. Australia: Police seize Melbourne property in international corruption case. The demonstrators want what they consider a "mafia-style" government ousted. This is a perfect storm, in which two visions for anti-corruption seem to be operating against one another and both of them, sincerely or not, claim the Romanian anti-corruption model as the source of inspiration. Curiously, apart from its orientation against President Radev, Bulgarian anti-corruption policy selects as its target some of the economic elites that have formed their corporate networks in the transition period. Ryerson University’s Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration and openDemocracy are teaming up for a live discussion to investigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global governance of migration and refugees. and "Out with the mafia!" The protest is branded as an “ethical” one, beyond right and left, which unites the honest and disgusted people against the privileged elites. The protest movement is the culmination of long-standing grievances against endemic corruption and state capture, particularly associated with prime minister Boyko Borisov's governments, in power since 2009. The prosecution’s investigations into two cabinets of the presidency were one of the sparks that ignited the current protests. The Romanian anti-corruption model has been criticised for what was called in Romania “TV justice” – exposing various infamous people under arrest and handcuffed on primetime Romanian television. Weber had previously expressed his admiration for “Borissov’s fight against corruption” at the onset of the protests. Is the anti-corruption agenda all that it’s cracked up to be? Is the fight for something more than power? Sep 3, 2020 | General, Politics | 0 | Protesters in Bulgaria. Taiwan: Major general charged in corruption scandal. The Romanian justice system is no longer plastered over the Bulgarian press. Brussels has not intervened because the Bulgarian PM is well connected in EU circles and a long-term member of the European People’s Party (EPP) – the Europe-wide political grouping of his own party, GERB. The Bulgarian anti-corruption model started to take shape around the person and the activity of Ivan Geshev. How will COVID-19 transform the global governance of migration and refugees? These competing anti-corruption formulas are now clashing, as they contain irreconcilable differences regarding the nature of the Chief Prosecutor’s office. In my view the interest of Bulgarians lies in social change. Police used pepper spray and the protesters threw eggs, tomatoes, water bottles and garbage at police officers. on ecological and civil rights issues – seem to be demanding the freeing of the Bulgarian economy and politics from the influence of the mafia, and its transformation into a proper liberal democracy. Since then, thousands of protesters have been lining the streets of Sofia daily demanding reforms addressing corruption. The latter has finally allowed itself to feel offended by the rule of a prime minister whose magical explanation for holding power over much of the last 11 years is: “I am stupid. You [the people] are stupid too. How will the public judge what is good, or whether the road undertaken travels in the right direction? But in July, following accusations of corruption and state protection of the mafia, protests broke in on the streets of Bulgaria. The primary emotion behind this release of energy is evidently sincere disgust at the endless cynicism of the in-groups that dominate the country’s political and economic life. Borissov dominated the political landscape for more than a decade. Join the conversation: get our weekly email, We encourage anyone to comment, please consult, “I am stupid. The European Greens are the only EU party which has had a firm stance on Bulgaria’s corruption, even publishing a highly critical report in 2018. At first glance, it looks like the street’s demands are pretty clear: resignations of the prime minister Boyko Borisov and the chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev. Today the younger generation – people in their twenties – are the most visible face of the protests. Vatican: Pope Formally transfers assets from Secretariat of State to Treasury. But it may involve various international partners and actors if it remains undecided. Or is it rather the oligarchy which finds new ways to strengthen itself? All these scenarios are plausible, but it is beyond doubt that the basis of the protests is the sincere and dire need for change. This was because, for many of the demonstrators, this demonstration of power could only mean that the prosecution was itself a player in Bulgarian political disputes between the institutions, over a long period of time when president Radev was in open conflict with the prime minister Borisov. Since then, protesters have been demanding changes in the country, including calls for an overhaul in the system of governance, with clear accountability … The ‘Anti-corruption’ fight in Bulgaria that erupted again on July 9, 2020, is caught in a clash between two conflicting concepts of what is at stake. Anti-Government Protests Against Corruption Intensify Across Bulgaria ... the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's government over corruption. On August 10, 2020, members of DiEM25’s Sofia1 DSC sat down with Nikolay Hadjigenov and Arman Babikyan from the “Poisoning Trio”, widely considered the initiators and coordinators of the anti-totalitarian and pro-democratic protests of 2020 in Bulgaria. We need a huge public outcry. Their health and jobs are more precarious, their journeys more perilous and their resettlement often suspended. The 2013 Bulgarian protests against the first Borisov cabinet spread to over 30 cities and were marked by seven self-immolations, five of which were fatal. Resignation of justice minister and sacking of 3 government ministers have not abated the wave of protests. The broad political spectrum represented by the protesters is unprecedented. This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. Officially it is about anti-corruption, but the real stakes could be even higher. Corruption widespread in Bulgaria . 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