Thursday, January 22, 2009

Interview with Liuba Batembergska and Vladislav Petrov from SEGA

Support for the protests is quite wide spread, but participation yesterday (21/1) was restricted to not more than a thousand pprotesters. I wanted to speak to an NGO that stands outside the protest movement, and went to SEGA – an NGO working for the inclusion of the roma minority in Bulgaria. Here I spoke to Liuba Batembergska, Advocacy Coordinator and Vladislav Petrov, assistant at the organization. They showed understanding for the protesters demands, but for them the real danger is waiting after next election.

Protesting is Ok...

Sega is not in any way involved in the protests, but Vladislav and Liuba support the idea of protesting, and Liuba says she personally support them. ”It's a good thing to show what you want, to articulate it, Liuba says.” Vladislav raised some doubts though, ”I'm not sure if this is a civic or political protest. That's why I think not many NGO's are involved.”

By ”political” Vladislav means that political parties are involved. The organizers have stressed that no parties can participate. The protest is political, but not for or against a party. Still Vladislav is not the first to mention rumors about the opposition parties involvement. ”It's important to make a difference between the people organizing the protests and the people who protest. The official speakers keep the distance to political parties. I don't know really about the protesters.”

The impact

”I also don't really know exactly what they want.” He continues. He says that the message was very blurry for those watching the demonstrations through mainstream media. ”The violence was at the center of the reports. I know that there are some wishes, but they are not clear enough to me to say that I support them.”

Liuba is familiar with the students' demands, but says that she can't support all of them. It's simply not possible to reach so many things at once. ”But this a protest against the whole system, and against the mafia. That's what i support.”

The street protests don't seem to be such a big thing to Liuba and Vladislav, actually. It's an interesting subject, but not more than that. I asked them what they wanted to change in Bugaria if they would protest and formulate demands for the parliament.

Liuba answers my question. ”About corruption, it must be stopped, but it can not be done just like this. We need to work with legal processes and real cases and solve the problem this way,”

”What is important is that public decisions have an impact, not new reforms.” Vladislav agrees. ”It's a little funny that there is suvh a picture of conflict. Because there is no conflict of interests really. The problem is not the laws, but how to make them work.

”And with the Roma people... it's complicated. We need to work with clarity nd transparany. Also here we need to have proof that what we do has results. We need to see an impact”


I ask what's their opinion about the Bulgarian political parties. If they have any preferences. This is a topic that sparks more emotions than the street protests.

”Right now I'm confused” Vladislav begins carefully. ”I think it's proved somehow that this government is not good. That it's a failure. But worries me most are the alternatives.”

”What alternatives?” I ask.

”Bojko Borisov, GERB and Ataka. The situation now is bad, but the alternative would be much worse.”

”Can you tell me a little more about GERB?” I ask. ”I think most people are familiar with Ataka but GERB are not famous at all in Sweden”. (What I actually mean is that it's very easy to understand why someone working for the inclusion of the Roma people is afraid of the extreme right wing Ataka. GERB however is not explicitly right wing in the same way.)

”GERB is completely built around their leader Bojko Borisov. And he is their main source of support. He has proven himself totally incompetent as a mayor of Sofia, totally incompetent, and he would be totally incompetent as a prime minister, for sure.”

”I don't know about the team he would pick, but the way he governed Sofia is a total failure. What I'm afraid of is that the party has very right ing ideas, that they don't articulate in public.”

”Exactly!” Liuba fills in, animated. ”It's not clear where they stand. It's described as a new party, but in fact it is not. It is a party of Bojko Borisov, that has been a part of the state leadership for eight years.”

Liuba points out that Borisov served in the ministry of interior affairs during the SDS government . A time in his career that is surrounded by rumors about too close connections with the criminal elements he was set to fight. After this he has served as the mayor of Sofia, a not unimportant post in Bulgarian political life.

”There is nothing new about this.” Vladislav says. But people like it because they think it's something new. They search for something strong, always want something new, he reflects. This way there is never any continuation. People get tired of the old faces. hat's what happened in 2001. (When the socialists came back to power) Only that Borisov will be worse.

Liuba:”He has NO position at all, sometimes he changes his position to the complete opposite within days. And worst of all, he supports the current president (ex-socialist Parvanov) which is allied to Russia, putin, the mafia. Parvanov was the one who forced in DPS in the government we have now”

”Do you know that for sure?” Vladislav asks.
”Yes. It is sure, Liuba says.”

I need to go. My subject is the protests staged by students, ecologists, farmers and other Bulgarians. At SEGA their grievances find understanding. But for Liuba and Vladislav the real problem isn't the government in charge but the one expected to win in the upcoming election-


Bojko Borisov – The mayor of Sofia. he will run in the next parliamentary elections and is expectedd to be Bulgarias next prime minister.
GERB – The party of Bojko Borisov.
Ataka – The Bulgarian extreme right party. They have connections to Le Pen in France.
DSP -The turkish party, members of the three party coalition. Since the summer the party has been defending itself against serious allegations of corruption, questions about a mystical suicide etc.

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