Will Historic Protests in Bulgaria Dislodge an Entrenched Oligarchy?

Will Historic Protests in Bulgaria Dislodge an Entrenched Oligarchy?
Protesters carry Bulgarian flags during a demonstration in Sofia, Bulgaria, July 29, 2020 (AP photo by Valentina Petrova).

Karate coach, firefighter, bodyguard, Interior Ministry chief and now prime minister. Boyko Borissov has had an eclectic career, and if the protesters on the streets of Bulgarian cities have their way, he’ll soon leave the prime minister’s office for the third time. The burly, pugnacious politician is accused of presiding over a state that has been captured by a cabal of oligarchs and corrupt officials. Antigovernment demonstrators say the situation should shame the European Union, which Bulgaria has been a member of for over a decade and which provides billions of euros in development funds each year.

Borissov’s time as prime minister spans three nonconsecutive terms since 2009; cumulatively, he has been in office nearly a decade. An adroit politician, he knows his political opponents are weak and divided. He also has the backing of his center-right allies elsewhere in Europe and a base of enthusiastic supporters. But protests against him have been going on for over six weeks, at times attracting tens of thousands of people. Participants are more confident of spurring change than in previous uprisings that have roiled the country.

“Electorally, there seems to be a very significant shift in Bulgaria—virtually the entire landscape is shifting dramatically,” Hristo Ivanov, leader of the opposition Yes, Bulgaria! party, told WPR. “This is a spectacular moment.”

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.