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20th Jan 2019

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Bulgarians protest controversial MEP listing

  • Thousands protested in Bulgaria last year (Photo: Uwe Hiksch)

The recent appointment of controversial media mogul Delyan Peevski to head the candidates' list in three areas for the Turkish party Movements for Rights and Freedoms has triggered new protests in Sofia.

Bulgarians were outraged that Peevski, who along with his mother Irena Krasteva, manages a growing media empire that backs whichever government is in power, is set to be elected to the European Parliament in next month's vote.

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In June last year Peevski was appointed head of the State Agency of National Security. The move sparked the largest protests since the fall of communism, with tens of thousands of citizens heading to the streets.

They were angry that a controversial person like Peevski should be given access to classified information and the power to decide on arrests and wiretaps. Two days later Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski rescinded the appointment and apologised. But it was too late; the protests went on for 300 days.

In October, the constitutional court reinstated Peevski as an MP prompting thousands of students to occupy Sofia University, temporarily shutting down the biggest university in the country.

This month's protest was not as big as last year's, reflecting a weariness among Bulgarians for lengthy demonstrations that have not managed to bring about change.

The Movement for Rights and Freedom say it nominated Peevski because he has a good reputation within the party and is a successful businessman who could help access EU funds.

Sociologist Andrey Raichev of Gallup International said the MEP candidature is both about removing Peevski from the national political scene and rewarding him as he is close to the previous political leader of the party, Ahmed Dogan, one of the most influential and powerful politicians in the country.

Others see a bright side to his nomination. The Socialist Party believes it will mobilise Bulgarians to go to the polls, resulting in a higher turnout and thwarting Peevski’s shot at the EU parliament, which would also draw a line under the political unrest that marked 2013.

The newly-formed Reformist bloc, meanwhile, sees Peevski's nomination as a provocation for Bulgarian public opinion. Since the outbreak of the fierce protests in June, Peevski has not once been seen at the Bulgarian Parliament.

Many believe that if he makes it to Brussels, he will continue managing his business from there rather than doing the tasks of a member of the European Parliament.

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