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Bulgarian government quits over austerity?

by Migeru Wed Feb 20th, 2013 at 05:30:07 AM EST

Novinite: Bulgaria PM: Every Drop of Blood is Shame for Us, We Quit (February 20, 2013)

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said the threats of turning the massive protests bloody has made him shockingly announce the resignation of his government on Wednesday. ... _"I cannot stand looking at a bloody Eagles' Bridge,"_ he added, referring to the busy intersection in downtown Sofia that became the scene of bloody clashes between police and protesters on Tuesday. ... The series of mass protests in Sofia and all other major Bulgarian cities was initially triggered by the shockingly high electricity bills in EU's poorest member state. However, many protesters have also demanded the resignation of the center-right GERB government.

This is made all the more shocking by the PM's own cavalier attitude the previous evening: Bulgarian PM Unperturbed by Mass Protests, Enjoys Game of Football

The largest protests so far were held over the weekend and Monday evening when tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in the capital Sofia and the other major cities in the country. Venting their anger at high electricity bills, the protesters demanded the resignation of the cabinet and the renationalization of power distributors.The rallies in downtown Sofia Monday evening were marked by clashes with riot police, which continued for over 4 hours with policemen chasing demonstrators on Sofia streets. Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, Borisov vowed to revoke the license of the local unit of Czech power utility CEZ to operate the country's national grid by the end of the day.
In addition, the PM responded with tough talk about "not resigning" to increasing pressure such as Bulgarian Left-Wing Opposition Mulls Boycotting Parliament.

I wonder what made Borisov re-consider, but I don't think this is the last we saw of him.

Now it's caretaker government until July, could be perfect cover to continue austerity...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 20th, 2013 at 07:18:27 AM EST
I don't think this is the last we saw of him

To explain this comment: Borisov isn't a standard centre-right leader, but a populist. Populist not in the US sense, but a sense as commonly applied to a type of politics widespread in the ex-communist region, characterised by the championing of a selection of hot-button popular demands whatever the consequences, a fake anti-establishment attitude (perhaps the key feature), one-man parties, and ad-hoc decisions. Few of these populists rise to the top, but when they do, it's in places where the establishment really did itself in: the prime examples are Italy's undead several-times-PM Silvio Berlusconi, Romania's President Traian Băsescu, Slovakia's PM Robert Fico, and Bulgaria's now-ex-PM Boyko Borisov. It is par for the course for such a populist to toss underlings and allie aside and pretend that all of the problems associated with a government are the fault of everyone else, the way Borisov did today.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 20th, 2013 at 09:43:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He's got his rent-a-crowd (and police estimates deviating in his direction):

Bulgaria: 7,000 Gather in Sofia to Support Resigned Bulgarian PM - Police - Novinite.com - Sofia News Agency

The pro-Putin-style ralliers who assembled in front of Parliament to support PM Boyko Borisov as it the house voted on his resignation have reached 7,000, according to police data.

News agencies give much lower but still significant estimates, quoting numbers in the 2,000-3,000 range.

After the resignation was passed almost unanimously by Parliament, Borisov and his cabinet ministers walked out to be greeted by their supporters.

The resigned PM addressed the multitude, thanking them and calling them to use restraint, to refrain from all acts of provocation, and to quietly disperse.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Feb 21st, 2013 at 08:25:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is July the earliest that elections could be held? Seems like a long time in a ministerial parliamentary type of government.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Feb 20th, 2013 at 01:34:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In a parliamentary democracy, you don't need new elections for a new government. That is, July would have been the normal date of new elections, had parliament opted for the option of a caretaker government until the end of parliament's term. But now they opt for dissolution and early elections two months earlier:

Bulgaria: Bulgaria to Hold Early Elections in end-April - Novinite.com - Sofia News Agency

After the announcement of the collective resignation of Bulgaria's center-right GERB government, all parties represented in Parliament made clear that they would seek early elections.

The early elections are to take place in end-April or the first half of May, according to reports of dnevnik.bg based on information presented by Tstevan Tsvetanov, Deputy Chair of GERB.

...The elections are to take place within 2 months after Bulgaria's Parliament is dissolved.

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev is to hold consultations Thursday with all political parties represented in Parliament, dnevnik.bg informs, adding that the current Parliament is likely to be dissolved by the end of next week, given that the parties have stated that they want quick procedures.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 20th, 2013 at 02:22:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Protests aren't over:

Bulgaria: Pro, Anti-Govt Protesters Meet in Front of Parliament Building in Sofia - Novinite.com - Sofia News Agency

Hundreds of protesters gathered Wednesday evening at the Orlov Most junction in Sofia and headed for the Parliament building.

The demonstrators said that the collective resignation of the GERB government was not enough and would not solve the problems Bulgaria was facing.

...The rally reached Parliament, where a group of around 100 people, guarded by a police cordon, is expressing its support for Prime Minister Borisov.

Thursday's rally is taking place under the motto that Bulgaria needs substantial changes to the existing Constitution and a replacement of the failed model of government.

Later in the night:

Bulgaria: Protesters Surround CEZ HQ in Sofia - Novinite.com - Sofia News Agency

Thousands of protesters have gathered in front of the CEZ headquarters in Sofia.

The rally, which started at the Orlov Most junction, then moved in front of the Parliament building, then returned to Orlov Most, has stopped in front of the headquarters of the power distributor.

There is increased police presence.

The protesters are booing and shouting "Down with CEZ" amid calls of the police to disperse.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 20th, 2013 at 02:24:39 PM EST
There is now a long analysis at Novonite: Bulgaria: The Bulgarian Winter: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. It details both the political manoeuvres preceding the government's resignation (including an attempt by Borisov to stop the protests with the help of fake protest leaders!) and the politico-economic situation that led to the various protest movements. Of these, the grain producers' one might be even more significant (the yuppie ex-World-Bank finance minister tried to renege on a promise to them a week earlier, leading to his dismissal). But here is the part on the energy issue:

...while not all demands went against privatization and for protection, this was the overall frame: a frame that has proved difficult to articulate after decades of a systematic liberal pro-market brain-wash.

The latest wave of contention that led to the resignation of the cabinet made no exception, but by early this week, the demands had started to change. The initial demand for the decrease of energy bills gradually changed with the slogan "Let's burn the monopolies". This motto expressed the explanations of the government as to why the increase of prices had happened were various. The reasons given ranged from the tax on green energy, the slightly longer period of charging, the delay of the process of reporting and increased consumption due to the Christmas holidays, and the low voltage of the electricity for domestic consumption. These were all valid reasons, and it was not transparency that was missing in the price formation. The solution offered, however, by liberal intellectuals, the media, and also initially by the people in the streets, was - surprise, surprise - the end of monopolies and further privatization and liberalization of the energy market. Yet the whole process is a showcase of how privatized entities function out of state control. The power distributive companies were privatized in 2005 and then sold out to three foreign companies under very favorable conditions of secure 16% annual profit or return for them. This made the state - and thus the taxpayers - literally indebted to these private companies, which have on top of that held prices high with a cartel agreement. Yet, it was not the monopoly in general that was a problem: an issue which was eclipsed by the amnesia of 23 years of transition to market economy. It was the monopoly in the hands of uncontrolled and uncontrollable private companies within a free market economy with no state regulation or protection that made the population vulnerable to price hikes. Yet, the crisis of political representation seemed stronger and soon took a lead among the protesters. The concrete plea of concessions on the electricity bills were soon followed by an overall demand for the resignation of the government, which in some places took the form of claims against particular local mayors and representatives of the state. By Monday the demands changed more dramatically to a new Constitutional Assembly, majority vote with no parties but individual candidates, and the revision of all privatization deals and concessions for the last 20 years. Thus, while general discontent with the capitalist system only surfaced timidly in some of the protesters' demands, the crisis has become political.

...but before we go all optimistic, there are shades of Budapest 2006-7:

...The protests were also joined and partly hijacked by a number of right-extreme groups. Mobilized around the neo-Nazi march this Saturday, commemorating interwar General Hristo Lukov, the Hitlerite leader of the Bulgarian Legions, who and introduced anti-Semitic laws, they were ready to provoke and loot. Their reactions jeopardized the energy of the protests which peaked on Sunday, and resurged on Tuesday...

...A few parties in the extreme right, such as Ataka and VMRO, have tried to ride the wave of the protests. And while their thugs discredited the protests, their leaders have kept firm ground, calling for nationalization of the power distributive companies, and the resignation of the government.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 20th, 2013 at 02:47:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the protesters need to be concerned about neo-Nazi elements, what about Borisov...

Bulgaria: Bulgaria Outgoing PM: Ethnic Turks Leader Dogan Ordered My Assassination - Novinite.com - Sofia News Agency

Speaking from the parliamentary rostrum just minutes after parliament accepted with overwhelming majority the resignation of his government, Boyko Borisov said Ahmed Dogan wanted him dead, citing a document from the intelligence of a foreign country.

"The intelligence agency of a partner country has provided documents, which clearly show that there were preparations for an assassination attempt on my life," Borisov said in a short and emotional speech.

Borisov directly accused Ahmed Dogan as the mastermind of the assassination plot and called on parliament to form an ad hoc committee to make public the classified document.

Note that Dogan himself survived an assassination attempt just a month ago, which Bulgarian xenophobes not just on the far-right assumed to have been staged (though Borisov himself at least opposed this hypothesis).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Feb 21st, 2013 at 08:30:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
These protests certainly haven't been very prominently featured in the MSM. French TV tonight is talking about it because of Borisov's "resignation".
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 20th, 2013 at 02:57:11 PM EST
Hardly surprising... In my view there has been consistent underreporting and misrepresentation in the anglophone media (can't comment on the other major languages) of anti-austerity protests in general. It is a kind of informal diffused censorship.
by Ivo on Wed Feb 20th, 2013 at 09:57:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Much of media in smaller languages is translation from english anyway. I think today was the first time I saw an article prominently featuring Grillo in reporting the italian election. Then again I don't read the papers on foreign affairs all that often, so it might have been mentioned once or twice before.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Thu Feb 21st, 2013 at 06:07:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, you know, Novinite is a Bulgarian news agency in English... It's on my twitter feed so I was seeing chatter about protests in Bulgaria all along.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 21st, 2013 at 06:47:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I meant translations/re-writes of articles in important papers in the english language. Fish from the sea? All my fish is quality fish from Lutetia!

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Thu Feb 21st, 2013 at 08:14:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, the PM resigns, ostensibly because a government cannot rule based on prolice brutality, and the guy in charge of police comes out and says:
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has proven himself as a "true statesman" by announcing his resignation, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov declared Wednesday.

Krasimir Velchev, head of the ruling center-right GERB's parliamentary group, also backed the surprising move, adding that the party does not need to remain in power for four more months "at any cost."

(Bulgarian Interior Minister Applauds PM's Resignation)

There is something very suspicious about this. It doesn't add up. They're hiding something.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Feb 21st, 2013 at 06:50:00 AM EST
Resigning in order to be able to run as opposition (with the same program + make over) sounds like it fits.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Thu Feb 21st, 2013 at 08:16:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure it's fishy... I suspect it is a move of the establishment to trick and deflect the protest. Practically all political entities in Bulgaria that matter espouse some kind of right wing politics notwithstanding what's written on the tin; and all of them have essentially the same paymasters. On top of that, all important economic and political decisions are not taken in Sofia, but in Brussels/Berlin and under the heavy american influence. When this context is taken in consideration I very much doubt the protests would lead to any meaningful changes.
by Ivo on Sat Feb 23rd, 2013 at 05:01:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bulgaria: Bulgaria's Socialists: Ax the Flat Tax, Tax the Rich More - Novinite.com - Sofia News Agency

"The flat tax, which my government introduced, yielded good results, but at the moment it is not adequate. Bulgaria is witnessing an abominable social stratification and abominable injustices," Socialist party spokesman Angel Naydenov told Darik radio.

As of 1 January 2008, Bulgaria introduced a 10% flat tax applicable for all income levels, i.e., there is no non-taxable income threshold. It replaced the previous system, which combined several different tax rates - between 20 and 24%, depending on income.

Now the Socialist Party is calling for the return of a progressive income tax so that the upper-income households as well as the rich are taxed much more than the poor.

The Socialists are putting forward a simple, three-tier scale.

"Zero tax for the poor, 10% for the incomes of the average Bulgarian and higher taxes for income, which exceeds a certain threshold, but definitely not 70% like in France," Naydenov explained.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Feb 23rd, 2013 at 02:54:20 PM EST

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