Bulgarians protest political corruption, utility monopolies
Tens of thousands protested across Bulgaria Sunday, calling for and end to political corruption, utility monopolies, demanding changes to the constitution and calling for new voting rules.
Protesters demanded the government adopt laws imposing strict control over energy companies and make changes to the constitution to allow direct voting for deputies.
The rally-goers targeted energy companies such as Czech CEZ and Energo-Pro and Austria’s EVN, which control energy distribution in specific regions of Bulgaria since 2004 and have imposed skyrocketing prices.
Bulgarian President Rosen Asenov Plevneliev appeared before the crowd at one one point, attempting to calm them down, but he was shouted down by the crowd. They yelled “Mafia! Out of the country!” and called for the president and other leading politicians to resign under a cloud of corruption.
Plevneliev is expected to appoint a caretaker government and dissolve parliament next week to make way for early elections. He also promised an 8 percent cut in electricity bills from March and to start a process to revoke CEZ’s license.
Over 25, 000 Bulgarians marched in the capital city of Sofia on Sunday blocking all central roads, ITAR-TASS news agency reports. There were conflicting reports as to the number of protesters, with Reuters putting the figure at 10,000.
Thousands also took to the streets in Bulgaria’s second and third largest cities Plovdiv and Varna, with the number of protesters in Varna reaching 30,000 according to ITAR-TASS. Another 40 smaller towns across the country staged rallies as well.
The protesters waved national flags and banners with logans reading “Fighting for decent life” and “Down with monopolies.”
Police made no arrests and lowered their shields to the ground, reportedly in solidarity with the peaceful protesters.