• Silvia Naydenova

Why are Bulgaria’s anti-corruption protests showing serious government failure?


A protester holding a sign ‘EU are you blind?’ during an anti-governmental protest in Sofia -   Copyright/ Photo by Sketches of Sofia

A protester holding a sign ‘EU are you blind?’ during an anti-governmental protest in Sofia - Copyright/ Photo by Sketches of Sofia


Overview of the recent protests


For weeks Bulgaria has been engulfed in fierce protests fuelled by the accumulated frustration and hopelessness over the government’s inability to bring an end to widespread corruption. "Corruption and the justice deficit is a terminal issue," says Dimitar Bechev, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.[1] The dissent began in early June when photos of the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov were leaked online, showing him asleep in his bed next to a drawer filled with 500 euro bills and a handgun.[2] The photos sparked controversy that stirred political arena but they were not enough to cause civic unrest. At the time this was seen simply as another political scandal, which Bulgarian people are already used to. The leaked photos were coupled with anonymously posted audio recordings of Borissov allegedly talking about ‘burning’ a MEP and covering up misappropriation of European Union (EU) funds.[3] Thus far, there has been no state investigation in any of the materials, despite independent media confirming their authenticity.[4]

The accusations led to a fierce political standoff between the institution of the Parliament , in the face of Boyko Borissov, and the President of the Republic of Bulgaria - Rumen Radev. Borissov diverted the attention by stating that these materials were being used by his political rivals (primarily the President) to discredit him and to stop crucial policy initiatives.

On the 7th of July commotion at a publicly owned stretch on the coast of Black Sea triggered more outrage. The beach hosts a large property owned by Ahmed Dogan, the Honorary Chairman of the Movement for Rights and Freedom (DPS). According to investigations by the independent media outlet ‘Bivol’, between 2016 and 2018, a two hundred meter pier was built illegally as part of the property of Dogan, but later legalized on the false grounds that it existed since the 1980s.[5] In July this year, Hristo Ivanov, former Minister of Justice and current leader of the party ‘Yes, Bulgaria