Students reignite popular anti-corruption protests in Bulgaria

Students reignite popular anti-corruption protests in Bulgaria
Students chained and padlocked doors at Bulgaria’s largest university on Monday as demonstrators reignited protests against official corruption and disarray just six months after the current Socialist-led Bulgarian government took office.

Thousands also demonstrated in Sunday’s “March of Justice” in downtown Sofia, taking aim at the current government, which took office in May after popular, student-led protestsearlier in the year helped ouster the previous government.

The students and protesters are calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski's technocratic government, renewed elections and an overhaul of alleged oligarchical practices that have raised the ire of many across the country.

A new wave of fury follows the resignation last week of Hristo Biserov - deputy leader of MRF, the junior party in the ruling coalition - just before prosecutors announced an investigation into him for tax fraud and money laundering.

Students stand next a closed entrance of Sofia's university on November 11, 2013. (AFP Photo/Dmitar Dilkoff)

Protesters try to remove a security metal fence in front of the Parliament building during an anti-government protest in Sofia on November 10, 2013. (AFP Photo/Dmitar Dilkoff)

The demonstrators allege damning ties between the government and business groups, or what university professors and teachers called "lies and 'tycoonisation' of the political and social environment" in a statement Sunday.

A small band of protesters has occupied a main building of Sofia University for 19 days now, causing a cancellation of lectures, though students and staff are allowed into the building.

"We declare total and effective occupation," the students announced Monday on their Facebook page demanding the government step down.

Students wear masks with a picture of Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski during an anti-government protest in Sofia on November 10, 2013. (AFP Photo/Dmitar Dilkoff)

Teachers and intellectuals have backed the Sofia University protest. In addition, students across Bulgaria have blockaded auditoriums in at least 18 other universities in a show of solidarity.

The protests also have wide support in Bulgaria, as 60 percent are behind the anti-poverty, anti-corruption push, according to a poll by the independent Alpha Research.

One banner in Sofia Sunday said "Your time is up! 24 years of false transition is enough,” insinuating all governments since communist dictator Todor Zhivkov was deposed on November 10, 1989, have failed to bring economic stability and reformed politics to Bulgaria.

Bulgaria is the European Union’s poorest member state. Its entrance into the EU has not brought widespread prosperity, though it has caused many youth to emigrate, leaving an aging and ever-poorer population as graft has run rampant and curbed investment.

Protesters held banners that read "Down with the mafia," and "We stay, you emigrate,” according to Reuters, echoing these sentiments.

Protesters shout anti-government slogans during a demonstration in central Sofia November 10, 2013. (Reuters/Stoyan Nenov)

The country has the lowest average monthly wage in the EU - 400 euros ($530). In addition, the birth rate has fallen, the mortality rate has risen and the population has dropped by over 1.5 million people since the fall of communist rule.

"We do not want lies, unscrupulousness and corruption," student protest organizer Ivaylo Dinev told demonstrators Sunday, according to AFP.

"We are the voices that say that this cannot go on any more, that this is intolerable. We say: 'Enough'," he added.

A student with a mask of Bulgarian Prime minister Plamen Oresharski pulls another chained student, wraped with Bulgarian national flag during an anti-government protest in Sofia on November 10, 2013. (AFP Photo/Dmitar Dilkoff)

Protesters shout anti-government slogans during a demonstration in central Sofia November 10, 2013. (Reuters/Stoyan Nenov)