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Thursday and Friday are crucial for the protests

18 July 2013 / 14:07:09  GRReporter
5992 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

GRReporter has been following from the very first day the protests in Bulgaria which have been continuing for 35 days already, and presented to you the views of journalists like Ivan Bedrov, Ivo Indzhev and Ivo Berov, poet Deyan Enev and writer Vladimir Levchev. Today we are introducing social anthropologist Vasil Garnizov, who has also become one of the faces of the protest and, in addition to being an expert in his field, he is also a very good photographer.

Typical of last month’s protests is the fact that they were organized and popularized through the social networks, and mostly through Facebook. Intentionally or not, the interview with Vasil Garnizov is the first we have made through this social networking website.

The polarization in the public space has dramatically increased in recent days. The confrontation is very sharp, various discrediting materials have been published. What is the purpose and outcome of this confrontation?

The conflict is escalating because both sides are standing their ground: the position of the protesters will not soften, they want the resignation of the government and elections; the government, on the other hand, is not inclined to hold elections before May 2014. As a result, the street and protesters are hardening. The outcome is not very clear at present. Most probably, the protests will intensify and radicalize on the eve of the parliamentary recess and the government will try its best to safely recess the parliament as, in this way, there will be no one whom the protesters can confront. Actually, this Thursday and Friday are crucial; we will know more during the weekend.

Photo: Ladislav Tsvetkov

How would you comment on the way in which the Bulgarian media are presenting the protest?

There is no single style of coverage of the protests by the media. Some of them such as the Bulgarian National Television, the Bulgarian National Radio and to some extent bTV and Nova TV, Dnevnik, Capital, Mediapool, Offnews observe the professional standards of objective reporting. However, there is a whole range of electronic media, print media and websites under the control of the government which are extremely biased towards the protests. For example, a newspaper used my photo, entitling it, "Thousands are protesting against the President" whereas the protest was actually against the government.

The news of the day is the discontinued hunger strike of Sugarev but his children have continued it instead. What is the point of this kind of protest in your opinion?

This is a deep moral act and a radical gesture of resistance. In this sense, the hunger strike is an action that is parallel to the street protests during the last 34 days. These protests are moderate, peaceful, artistic, sometimes theatrical and even carnival-like. The majority of the protesters in #DANSwithme believe that, in human history, peaceful revolutions succeed more often than radical revolutionary actions.

The government is continuing the controversial appointments, including of persons with a criminal record despite the protests. Why is the government doing this and where is its determination coming from since the protests started because of one such appointment which they were forced to withdraw?

It is hard for an outside observer to peer into the government’s motives and its appointees. Probably, they need to deploy their personnel in key positions before next year’s elections and to accumulate funds for the conduct of these elections.

Apparently, the strategy of the government is to stay quiet until the protests subside. What is the strategy of the protesters?

The government's tactics are to exhaust the enemy: you can protest, you do not disturb us. It relies on the summer time, vacations, holidays, fatigue, the lack of hope in order for the energy of the protest to wane. However, a core group of protesters is determined not to give up, even if the number of the protesters decreases.

The government's tactics are to exhaust the enemy: you can protest, you do not disturb us. It relies on the summer time, vacations, holidays, fatigue, the lack of hope in order for the energy of the protest to wane. However, a core group of protesters is determined not to give up, even if the number of the protesters decreases. The protesters are convinced that they are right, they are ready to defend it even as a minority but welcome whoever joins them. Moreover, they perceive as allies the public opinion and the governments of some European countries as well as the presidential institution here in the country.

There is some time until the vacation of the deputies, and actions which can change the situation will be taken by the end of this week.

How would you comment on the response of the four ambassadors of Bulgaria’s partner countries in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to support the protesters and the president? Do you think there is a risk of "freezing" the country’s membership in some of these organizations?

The statements of the four ambassadors are the expression of certain European values ​​but also an act on the verge of the good diplomatic tone. This means that the current tripartite coalition does not enjoy the confidence of key member states due to its serious deviation from the standards of the public and political activities and because of the empowerment of the "Attack" party - a party which has arrogantly broken with the European ethics, aesthetics and civilization.

How can society "get rid" of the "Attack" party phenomenon?

Society cannot "get rid" of the "Attack" party, but society can reduce the political weight of this party and this can only happen after the resignation of the government and early elections. Other political options are also being discussed, namely a broad coalition without the "Attack" party for which Borisov is signalling but which could hardly happen within this Parliament.

We see that the attempts to discredit the reformist bloc have started even before its creation. What are the dangers for it? Could it be the alternative in the event of early elections?

Naturally, the current parliamentary status quo is not interested in the consolidation of the reformist space but the reformist bloc itself is not a meeting of kindergartens - it must be aware that the symbolic battle in the media will be relentless. Regarding their chances in the event of early elections, they seem high at present with the reservation that the formation of the bloc is at its very beginning and making forecasts in this regard is risky.

The President has supported the protests but criticism against him followed from both sides. Some media have published discrediting materials about him whereas others are criticising him for not doing anything substantial to support the protests in practice. How would you comment on this?

The real attack against the President is from the government as well as from pro-government media. No banners against Plevneliev have appeared in the streets; to the contrary, banners reading "Thank you, Mr. President" have appeared after his statements. The awareness of these protests is very high and the protesters know that his powers are limited at present.

What needs to happen? Is it new elections? What will be the outcome of this stalemate if they reproduce the same parties?

The government insists on maintaining the status quo and the protesters want resignation, changes in the electoral code and new elections. In my opinion, talks about re-establishing the public order should start but there is no will for this among the key public figures and the active groups in the country.

How do you see the social contract in Bulgaria in the longer term?

It is necessary but difficult! In order for it to happen, there must be an internal persistence from the protesters and external pressure, it is also necessary for large groups of people such as small- and medium-sized businesses, active people, public administration, including the media, to start perceiving themselves as losers due to the current institutional order.

Tags: PoliticsBulgariaProtestsGovernmentVasil Garnizov
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