Bulgaria’s President Rumen Radev described the government as arrogant and cynical on November 12, amid two sets of protests against the high fuel price and demanding the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov over offensive words towards mothers of disabled children.
While the mothers have been protesting for more than 20 days, the rallies against high fuel prices started on November 11 when thousands of drivers blocked roads in several Bulgarian towns. Some analysts compare the situation with the winter of 2013 when the first government of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov resigned following protests against high electricity prices. If the current protests gain momentum, some speculate they could provoke Borissov to resign for the third time.
“Those in power lose their sensors and the sense of people’s problems. If there is no audibility, if the respective measures are lacking, if the arrogant and cynical statements and the misunderstanding of problems continue, it is natural for these protests to continue,” Radev told reporters.
However, he added that the government should not resign in the current situation of rising prices and crimes.
Unlike Radev, the government called the protests a provocation aiming to politically destabilise the country.
Meanwhile, the protests against high fuel prices turned violent in the city of Varna on November 12 when hooded men attacked the protesters. However, the police intervened quickly preventing more serious violence, news outlet Dnevnik reported.
In Sofia, the mothers of disabled children again went out on the streets demanding Simeonov's resignation.
In mid-October, Simeonov called mothers campaigning for better treatment of their disabled children “a group of shrill women who speculated with their children, manipulated society, taking out in the streets those allegedly ill children in hot weather and rain”, provoking outrage in Bulgaria.
Although Borissov refused to replace Simeonov in order to preserve the ruling coalition, he decided to remove him as head of the cabinet’s National Council for Co-operation on Ethnic and Integration Issues, replacing him with Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev. The move was one more attempt to calm down the mothers and their supporters.
In another attempt to calm down the tense situation within the ruling coalition, Borissov’s Gerb party said on November 12 that it will not join the United Nations’ global pact on migration that aims to regulate the treatment of migrants worldwide.
Gerb’s junior coalition partner, the far-right United Patriots, strongly oppose the pact, claiming it endangers Bulgaria’s national interests.
“This is the right decision at the moment,” Tsvetan Tsvetanov, the leader of Gerb’s parliamentary group, told reporters following a meeting between the coalition partners.