July 13, 2020 / 8:02 PM / 25 days ago

Bulgarian anti-graft protests want Borissov's government out

SOFIA (Reuters) - Thousands of people turned out in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on Monday for the fifth day running to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, voicing growing frustration with high-level corruption and the business tycoons they believe are benefiting.

Demonstrators take part in an anti-government protest in Sofia, Bulgaria, July 13, 2020. The banner reads: "Freedom." REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

Similar protests in at least 10 other cities criticised prosecutors’ failure to address genuine high-level graft, which they said was undermining the rule of law in the European Union’s poorest country. Many yelled “Mafia!” and “Resign!”.

The Balkan nation, ranked as the most corrupt EU member state by the graft watchdog Transparency International, has yet to convict a single senior official of corruption.

“I am here to protest against the corruption that has engulfed this country, against the oligarchs who have slipped into each and every sphere of the public administration,” said 42-year-old protester Lachezar Lazarov.

Borissov has been in office almost without a break since 2009. He has pledged to uproot high-level corruption, but critics say public institutions have weakened and the power of tycoons has grown on his watch. A parliamentary election is scheduled for next spring.

Public anger broke out last week after prosecutors raided the offices of President Rumen Radev, a vehement critic of Borissov, as part of probes into two of Radev’s aides.

Many saw the move as an attack on the president, who has often criticised Borissov’s centre-right government on the same grounds as the protesters and called for his resignation.

The protests have shown no sign of dwindling in size and more are planned for later in the week.

The opposition Socialists, who backed Radev for president, have said they will put forward a motion of no confidence in the government on Wednesday.

On Monday, some of the protesters also demanded the resignation of the interior minister over police violence at Friday’s protests, when 18 people were arrested, including two young men who were taken to hospital after being beaten. The police said they were investigating.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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