Tuesday

6th Dec 2016

Bulgarian government to resign amid austerity protests

  • PM Borisov, a former bodyguard, has resigned over police brutality (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Bulgaria's centre-right government tendered its resignation on Wednesday (20 February) after days of street protests against rising electricity prices. The move is the latest in a series of EU governments stepping down amid public anger over austerity and mismanagement, in countries like Greece, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia and Romania.

"The people gave us power and today we are returning it," Prime Minister Bojko Borisov said when making the surprise announcement in parliament.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Just a day earlier, Borisov had firmly stated he would not step down, even as protests grew wider and the focus shifted from utility companies and electricity bills to the government itself.

Sacking the finance minister and withdrawing the licence of a Czech power firm, CEZ, also failed to appease the crowds.

On Tuesday evening clashes between pockets of violent protesters and police put at least 14 people in hospital. Images of protesters covered in blood shocked the Bulgarian public.

In his snap speech in the parliament on Wednesday, Borisov said the main reason for his cabinet's resignation is to put an end to violence.

"I will not participate in a government under which police are beating people. Every drop of blood is a shame for us," he told MPs.

The resignation still has to be validated by the Bulgarian parliament, with Borisov's majority indicating it will vote in favour.

Early elections could then take place in May or June, even though regular parliamentary elections were due in July. The President will give the main political groups a mandate to form an interim government once the parliament approves the resignation. Borisov may stay on as head of a caretaker government.

An European Commission spokeswoman on Wednesday said "a democratic process has started in Bulgaria and we respect that. It is up to the Bulgarian parliament to decide on the next steps."

Borisov, a former bodyguard of Bulgaria's Communist-era leader Todor Zhivkov, came to power in 2009 on an anti-mafia ticket. But his heavy-handed approach, combined with intransigent poverty - Bulgaria is the EU's poorest country - corruption and mafia killings have dented his popularity.

The drop that filled the glass was rising electricity costs in a country where people rely on electric heaters to warm up their flats during the cold winter months.

Average salaries of around €400 a month have not increased in years.

For its part, the EU commission recently praised Borisov's government for curbing the public deficit and putting a freeze on pensions and wages, with Bulgaria one of the few EU countries to stick to the deficit rule of three percent of GDP.

Similar to neighbouring Romania, where anti-austerity protests toppled a centre-right government last year and led to a landslide victory for the centre-left, Bulgaria may see a change of power after the upcoming vote.

But the people's disappointment in the political elite, whether this or that camp, is set to linger.

No euro crisis after Italian vote, says EU

The Italian PM's resignation after a failed constitutional referendum has not changed the situation, the Eurogroup president has said. Financial markets have remained stable.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEJC President Breathes Sigh of Relief Over Result of Austrian Presidential Election
  2. CESICongress Re-elects Klaus Heeger & Romain Wolff as Secretary General & President
  3. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAustrian Association for Betting and Gambling Joins EGBA
  4. ACCAWomen of Europe Awards: Celebrating the Women who are Building Europe
  5. European Heart NetworkWhat About our Kids? Protect Children From Unhealthy Food and Drink Marketing
  6. ECR GroupRestoring Trust and Confidence in the European Parliament
  7. UNICEFChild Rights Agencies Call on EU to put Refugee and Migrant Children First
  8. MIRAIA New Vision on Clean Tech: Balancing Energy Efficiency, Climate Change and Costs
  9. World VisionChildren Cannot Wait! 7 Priority Actions to Protect all Refugee and Migrant Children
  10. ANCI LazioRegio-Mob Project Delivers Analysis of Transport and Mobility in Rome
  11. SDG Watch EuropeCivil Society Disappointed by the Commission's Plans for Sustainable Development Goals
  12. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhD Positions Open – The Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU (PLATO)

Latest News

  1. Brexit deal must be done by October 2018, says EU negotiator
  2. Rising to the challenge of 'European Angst'
  3. Polish firm sues EU Commission over Gazprom privileges
  4. ID and police checks await all who enter and leave the EU
  5. Italy's Renzi to stay on to pass budget
  6. Dutch anti-Ukraine vote spawns 'app democracy' party
  7. EU agrees on debt measures for Greece
  8. EU scrambles to finalise gun-control reforms