SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgarian protesters pelted lawmakers with tomatoes and eggs and chanted “Mafia!” and “Resign!” on Wednesday in a sign of mounting frustration over the new Socialist-led government’s refusal to quit over a security scandal.
Thousands of mostly younger Bulgarians have been staging protest rallies for more than a week demanding the cabinet step down over its bungled bid to impose a media mogul as head of national security, a highly sensitive post, without any debate.
Bowing to the protesters, parliament canceled Delyan Peevski’s appointment and Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski has apologized, but refuses to resign, saying this would destabilize the European Union’s poorest member state and harm its economy.
The protests, which are fueled by impatience over the politicians’ failure to tackle graft and organized crime, had been peaceful and good-natured until Wednesday’s gathering, which was organized via social network sites.
Bulgarian television showed some protesters hurling food at a group of lawmakers entering the parliament building. A deputy from the ethnic Turkish MRF party, junior partner in the ruling coalition, was slapped with a newspaper and doused with water.
The media mogul Peevski is a former MRF lawmaker. Bulgarian media says Peevski, 32, stands behind a powerful network of newspapers and television channels owned by his mother.
The abortive bid to appoint Peevski, who has no experience of security issues, is viewed by the protesters as symbolic of the murky ties between Bulgarian politicians and businessmen.
As well as the government’s resignation, the protesters are also demanding a raft of reforms they hope will cut corruption and bring greater transparency to Bulgarian public life.
Lawmakers had been due to approve on Wednesday banker Daniela Bobeva as deputy prime minister but not enough turned up for the vote to go ahead, adding to a sense of political drift in a country with pressing economic and social problems.
Worryingly for Oresharski, deputies from a small nationalist party whose passive support his government needs to stay in power failed to show up in parliament on Wednesday.
The Socialists and the MRF, who placed second and third respectively in May’s snap election, formed their coalition after the biggest party, the center-right GERB, failed to find allies to form its own government.
Street protests over corruption and high energy prices toppled the previous GERB government in February.
A Bulgarian poet and former right-wing deputy, Edvin Sugarev, said on Wednesday he was going on hunger strike in protest against the Socialist-led coalition.
“Thousands of Bulgarians have demanded your resignation and you keep pretending you do not hear their voices below the windows of your office, that you do not understand their demands and that you cannot feel their insistence,” he said in an open letter to the prime minister.
Reporting by Angel Krasimirov