More than 100 MPs have been escorted out of the Bulgarian parliament after being trapped inside by protesters
Spending the night trapped at work. It is not how most people would like to enjoy their evening but for scores of MPs in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, that is exactly how they passed Tuesday night. Anti-government demonstrators besieged their building in a show of anger against what they see as their corrupt leaders. There have been regular mass demonstrations in Bulgaria throughout this first half of the year and the protesters have already secured one major victory, as the previous centre-right government headed by the GERB party quit in February.
But times have not got any easier for the current ruling Socialists as they, too, are facing calls to leave office. The tipping point for the protests was the appointment of Delyan Peevski to lead the national security agency. A colourful media mogul, many people seem to have felt this was a shady move that illustrated the winks and nudges that they believe characterise the relationship between politicians and businessmen in the Eastern European country.
The protesters have several grievances: along with Mr Peevski’s appointment, the demonstrations are in opposition to electricity price rises and have grown into more general laments against a corrupt political class. Bulgarian politics is not usually on a news editor’s list of hot topics that will set the audience or readers’ minds alight. But what happened overnight was an interesting spin on a more widespread public anger and distrust towards their politicians. Yes, it’s a good story and there are good pictures but there will be some who simply ask…isn’t it really a case of ‘same old EU’?
Calling for your government to resign is a popular chant throughout the continent, with Greece, Portugal and Italy still wavering, leaders such as Mariano Rajoy (Spain; alleged slush fund payments) and Francois Hollande (France; plummeting opinion poll ratings) under intense domestic pressure. Moreover, the lead beacon of monetary stability, Germany, is set to induce a new nervousness across the eurozone when elections are held there in the autumn. The continent has seen two years of marching, burning, rioting (everywhere), new governments, ousted governments, planned technocratic governments (Italy, Greece), countries about to leave the euro (Greece, eternally), others joining the single currency (Latvia) and so on. When you bear all this in mind, maybe it’s no surprise and maybe it does, in fact, speak volumes about the European malaise that the barricading of Bulgarian MPs in parliament by anti-corruption demonstrators only months after previous demonstrations got rid of the previous government was a story that many people missed.