SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Tens of thousands of people took to the streets Wednesday in cities across Bulgaria for a third consecutive week to demand the resignation of the government and the chief prosecutor.
In the biggest anti-government protests in seven years, those in power are being accused of maintaining links to the mafia, refusing to fight corruption and reform the judiciary and suppressing freedom of speech.
President, Rumen Radev, a vocal critic of the government, is backing protesters, saying the center-right Cabinet of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev should step down.
In a public address to the nation, Radev spoke about the deep anger of the protesters. “It has been piling up for years and cannot be suppressed by fear and force,” he said.
Although the rallies have been mostly peaceful, there have been occasional clashes and some arrests.
In Sofia on Wednesday, protesters blocked several key intersections during business hours, bringing traffic almost to a standstill.
In the evening, a huge crowd gathered in front of the government headquarters singing the national anthem and waving national flags. People chanted “Borissov, you are shame and disgrace” and “Resignation.” Many were following calls by the organizers to set up tents outside the Cabinet building and remain there until their demands are met.
In a video on Facebook, Borissov said everyone has the right to demonstrate, but not to block roads and intersections.
“Elections are coming, everyone will be able to vote. This is democracy. Imagine we lose the election and start shutting down crossroads. Is that democracy?” Borissov said.
Borissov has been in power since 2009 and his third term is scheduled to end next March