Several thousand people joined street rallies across Bulgaria on Monday as initial protests against high electricity bills snowballed into bitter anger against the right-wing government of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
Between 1,500 and 2,000 protesters marched on parliament in downtown Sofia on Monday evening, shouting “Mafia!”, “Resign!” and “Garbage!”
Over 2,000 also gathered in the Black Sea city of Varna where the rallies against the power utilities began last week, while several thousand more joined smaller marches in at least nine other cities, the state news agency BTA reported.
In Sofia, protesters clashed with police outside parliament and hurled stones at the building, breaking several windows, an AFP reporter saw.
Gendarmes with shields and batons were deployed to disperse the crowd, which moved on to block traffic at key downtown boulevards for hours.
The interior ministry later said four demonstrators were detained.
“This is no longer just against the high electricity bills. Down with the whole politics of this government!” a 42-year-old unemployed construction engineer told AFP at the rally.
“Djankov went, now is Boyko’s turn,” the woman added, referring to the sacking earlier Monday of Bulgaria’s unpopular Finance Minister Simeon Djankov amid the snowballing street protests.
“We’ve lived through communism and remember the personality cult towards (the dictator) Todor Zhivkov. But what we have now surpasses it — it’s Boyko for breakfast, Boyko for lunch, Boyko for dinner, while people don’t have anything to eat. We’re fed up!” said another protestor who also said he was afraid to give his name.
Analysts commented Monday that the once hugely popular premier has indeed lost sway with voters disillusioned over growing poverty and widespread corruption and favouritism.
With elections just five months away, support for Borisov’s minority right-wing government has eroded to about 22 percent, about the same as for the opposition Socialists, a recent Gallup poll showed.