After Occupy Wallstreet, Occupy PD and Occupy Gezi comes Occupy Sofia, but how many of you have heard of the last one? My bet is very few.
And yet, in the past three weeks, thousands of Bulgarians have taken to the streets of Sofia, Varna, Burgas and other cities, an anti-government protest that has been barely mentioned by the media, who has been more focused on what has been going on in Gezi Park and Rio.
Despite the lack of violence (the police force has declared public support of the movement) in these protests and the smaller number of participants in comparison to those in Brazil and Turkey, Occupy Sofia is not to be ignored, as some are even comparing it to the Velvet Revolution that took place in Czechoslovakia 20 years ago.
Bulgaria is a country that has been deeply affected and shaped by political scandals, where corruption is often served as a side-dish. While Bulgarians have mostly learned to live with the lack of transparency in politics and feeble attempts of cover ups, there have been various protests in past against budget cuts and minimum wage decrease.
This time, however, the protest is different: the people are not marching for a change in a specific measure, but rather for a change in the way politics are conducted in the country.
At this point, one may ask, why have the people risen now?
The event that ignited the spark was the appointment of 32 year old media-tycoon Deylaan Peevski, as the head of national security. Peevski, who indirectly controls high-circulation newspapers, news websites and tv channels (that are under his mother’s name) had been previously tried-and cleared- for corruption and extortion.
Following the outburst caused by his appointment, the government withdrew the decision and publicly apologized, trying to further appease the population by increasing public spending and reducing utility bills.
But it wasn’t enough.
Intellectuals, lawyers, anarchists, young and educated people, middle class, environmentalists, journalists, workers, and activists united in order to bring change to their country and continued with the protests.
There have been feeble attempts at turning this into a clash of ideologies (the nationalist ATAK party tried to recruit supporters at local gyms in order to go against the protesters, in exchange for pizza and the equivalent of 30 pounds but the scam was later revealed on national television) but they have failed.
The people don’t want to overthrow the current coalition government, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (very much approved of by the European socialists) led by Plamen Oresharski, because they want to return to the previous right-wing governance, what they are aiming at is a radical change in how things are run in Bulgaria. The desire for the left coalition to resign is due to the fact that it is the latest example of messy political schemes and lack of transparency in a country that is aching for concrete measures against corruption and organized crime and a firm implementation of the rule of law.
Despite the little attention given by the media, the Occupy Sofia movement is achieving small but impressive results and it looks like there is a good possibility it might succeed. Polls show that 2/3 of the protesters will not stop until the government resigns, the future seems rather dim for Oresharski.
Chiara Romano Bosch