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PM Boyko Borissov sacks four ministers in attempt to calm protests

Bulgaria is entering its third week of anti-government protests, which do not seem at all impressed by the resignations

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PM Boyko Borissov

Passing the two-week mark of antigovernment protests across the country, PM Boyko Borissov sacked four ministers.

Borissov promised protesters that the government will not resign but instead will undergo a deep reconstruction. Apparently, this is what he meant. The three ministers he asked to resign last week, then pulled back, are in the pool, together with the surprising addition of Tourism Minister Nikolina Angelkova.

Angelkova is arguably one of least liked ministers by the protesters but this is the first time her name came up.

The other three – now former Finance Minister Vladislav Gouranov, Minister of Interior Mladen Marinov and Minister of Economy Emil Karanikolov were initially named for being "Delyan Peevski’s ministers".

Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) MP and media mogul Delyan Peevski is seen as the central figure of corruption and connection to oligarch interest in a number of governments over the past decade. Three of those have been led by Borissov, one by Plamen Oresharski and GERB’s parliamentary opposition, the Bulgarian Socialist Party. Seven years ago, thousands protested against Oresharski’s government for more than a year before it finally stepped down. The event, which ignited the protests back in 2013 was the appointment of Peevski as head of the State Agency for National Security.

Borissov denies affiliations with DPS and Peevski in general but never goes against their interests. Naming the three ministers as "Peevski’s" is the first time for him to acknowledge such connections publicly. DPS is not a part of the ruling coalition, which elevates admission as Borissov having behind-the-scenes deals and dependencies from DPS and Peevski – something the Bulgarian public has been accusing of Borissov for many years.

Another change Borissov inniciated was to transfer the now-former Health Minister Kiril Ananiev to the Ministry of Finance. He will take over for one of the more controversial figures of the lot – Vladislav Gouranov. Gouranov himself said he does not see a reason to resign a few days ago, while the PM called him one of the most successful ministers in the Cabinet less than two weeks ago.

The former gambling tycoon Vassil Bozhkov, who is currently residing in Dubai and facing 18 charges in Bulgaria after a swift change of attitudes from the government towards him and his businesses – has accused Gouranov and Borissov personally for taking tens of millions of leva in "comfort fees" over the years. Bozhkov published bank statements showing cash withdraws in the millions, which he claims he has given them. Neither they, nor the Prosecutor’s Office have followed up in any way on these accusations.

Antigovernment protests were sparked across the country with thousands taking to the streets daily demanding the government’s and Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev’s resignations. The initial act, which ignited them was non-parliamentary opposition leader Hristo Ivanov attempting to land on the beach near honorary leader of DPS Ahmed Dogan’s mansion. The beach is public property but access to it restricted. Ivanov was met by security, which later were confirmed as part of the National Service for Protection. The NSP provides security only for the top-level officials – like the PM and the President. The service may be provided to other persons as an exception per the decision of a committee, dominated by the executive branch. It has been a public secret that Dogan, who does not hold public office at all and Peevski are protected by the NSP but no one admitted it before until President Roumen Radev finally did – following Ivanov’s landing on Rosenec beach – and spoke against it. The next day, the Prosecutor’s Office raided the presidency building and arrested two of Radev’s staff. This reinforced the protests further.

Protesters are still demanding the same – the resignation of the whole government and Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev’s as well. Protests are ongoing today and scheduled for tomorrow as well.

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