Thursday

30th Mar 2017

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.

Feature

Bulgaria's winter of discontent

Huge protests in Bulgaria in the past 17 days stem from a deep political crisis that goes well beyond economic discontent and creates uncertainty for the future of the country.

Commission stops German-British stock merger

The decision to block the merger of the London Stock Exchange and Deutsche Boerse was expected, as negotiations between the parties broke down a few weeks ago.

SMEs lack support in EU financial plan

The European Commission's plan for a capital markets union is said to be aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises, but many could end up being left out in the cold.

Stolen Russian billions ended up in EU states

Illicit money flowing out of Russia ended up in almost every single EU state, an investigation has found, posing questions on the integrity of Europe’s banking systems.

News in Brief

  1. UK publishes 'Great Repeal Bill' plan to replace EU laws
  2. Scots share May's vision for Brexit deal, survey says
  3. Coalition talks leader expects Dutch government by summer
  4. EU commission allows ex-member Hill to join law firm
  5. Reuters: Greece and lenders move closer to deal
  6. Italy: Le Pen win would mean 'permanent political risk'
  7. Danish parliament misinformed on Nord Stream 1
  8. UK delivered its Article 50 letter to the EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  2. The Idealist QuarterlyCan Progressive Stories Survive Our Post-Truth Era? After-Work Discussion on 6 April
  3. ACCAG20 Citizens Want 'Big Picture' Tax Policymaking, According to Global Survey
  4. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  5. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  6. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  7. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  9. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  10. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  11. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy

Latest News

  1. Hungary attempts to stifle Soros-founded university in Budapest
  2. European right shows divisions on EU values after Brexit
  3. Transparency is key EU tactic in Brexit talks
  4. Russia building 'arc of iron' around Europe
  5. Französische und deutsche Wahlen 'entscheidend' für Putin
  6. EU trying to salvage US deal on data privacy
  7. MEPs draw 'red lines' on Brexit deal
  8. MEPs call for reset in relations with Belarus