Monday, July 8, 2013

Demanding a better future

For more than three weeks now, tens of thousands of protesters have been marching through central Sofia, each day at 6:30 P.M. Their demands include the dismantling of the current government, which did not win the snap elections in May but barely managed to piece together enough members of parliament for a 51% majority. 

The political situation here has been ignored and under-reported not only in the foreign press but also at home. Many local media networks, most notably newspapers, omit any information about the protests from the headlines. Some television reporters have begun masking their identities and choosing not to display their network logos out of fear of retribution from angry protesters who resent the lack of accurate news coverage on the protests. However, the protests here have been largely peaceful, with no violent clashes with police as in Egypt and Turkey. 

The limited international news coverage of the situation in Bulgaria begs the question: "Is the world watching?" and if not, what happens next? The current government seems satisfied enough to carry on with business as usual while further protesters assemble outside the National Assembly during the workweek, and denies or plays down the protests' influence. The leader of the ultra-nationalist right wing "Ataka" party, whose neo-fascist, xenophobic and racist ideology is an ugly smear on Bulgaria's image within the European Union, began carrying a gun with him and declared his plans to make protesting "illegal." His inflammatory statements have already merited the creation of a new Facebook and Twitter hashtag, encouraging protesters to ignore him completely.

What could a long-term solution to this deep-rooted public anger be? 

"Bulgaria’s best hope is a technocratic government that reforms the judiciary, changes the electoral code, fights organised crime and corruption, and ends the opaque dealings of the government so that young, untainted and talented people find it attractive to enter politics." 
- The Economist

The people currently protesting down Tsarigradsko Shose, past Sofia University and towards the National Assembly are the future of this country. They are not only young people, but the majority of them are. Many of them want to stay here and raise their families here, despite the lure of better conditions abroad. They deserve the attention and support of the whole world, just like so many peaceful demonstrations before them.

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