Bulgaria’s parliament has voted to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Boiko Borisov by a vote of 209 to 5, following widespread street protests against corruption and poor governance.
The demonstrations — the biggest in 15 years — were sparked by electricity price rises and corruption scandals, including reports that the nominee to head the government electricity regulatory commission was selling cigarettes illegally online.
“Apparently Borisov is trying to save the political capital he still has, and this was the reason for his resignation,” said Daniel Smilov, an analyst at the Centre for Liberal Strategies think-tank in Sofia. “I am not sure this will be a successful strategy, but he is a very skilful communicator.”
Bulgarians were disillusioned that the overthrow of Communism in 1989 and the country’s subsequent democratization had not delivered the expected prosperity, Smilov, told The New York Times:
Bulgaria has struggled to shed a reputation for lawlessness and corruption. It remains poor, with an average monthly wage of just $480, the lowest in the European Union.
“What we are seeing is the result of a general distrust in government and the political system,” said Smilov, noting that protests had engulfed wealthy as well as poorer regions of the country. “These are not the bottom layers of society, but people in the middle strata who have been hit hardest by the financial crisis. They fear they are losing their status, and they might become poor very fast.”
“My main worry is that there are no clear alternatives at the moment. The fear is that we may have a fragmented new parliament and strengthening of populist parties which could put governability at risk,” said Smilov.
“There are not too many immediate problems but long-term, the situation is not good,” he said.
The Centre for Liberal Strategies was a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.