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Opinion: Violence in Bulgaria to be expected

Demonstrators in Bulgaria want to take down the system, but aren't proposing an alternative. That's contributing to the rise in violence within the country, writes DW's Alexander Andreev.

Just 10 weeks after parliamentary elections in Bulgaria, the situation has heated up dramatically. During the night on Wednesday (24.07.2013), hundreds of demonstrators blocked parliament. Clashes with security forces left at least 18 injured, including several police officers.

This violence has opened up a new dimension in the Sofia protests. Yet an escalation was long advertised: A militant fraction of demonstrators, along with many participants in heated online discussions repeatedly spoke in favor of violence.

"Blood must first flow, a few windows be shattered and a few heads bashed, in order to get things underway," wrote one disgruntled member online.

But what exactly is supposed to get moving? That's the question to which demonstrators appear to have no specific answer, and which has led to a vicious political cycle. Bulgarians protesting for more than 40 days have put forward the simple demand of taking down the corrupt and nepotistic system - which makes perfect sense to the majority of citizens.

Since the breakdown of the communist system in 1989 and 1990, Bulgaria has been ruled by networks of oligarchies and clientilism. Practically all parties and coalitions in power serve the interests of large economic actors - or worse, those of shadow organizations which began as organized crime running protection rackets, but later established themselves as powerful market agents.

Also belonging to this rotten system - which the demonstrators want to dismantle - are former communist state security networks, not only active in the security sector, but also in preserving old smuggling routes through Bulgaria. The justice system is infested with corruption, such that public prosecutors and judges enrich themselves by directly fulfilling the wishes of political parties.

Then there's the distribution of government orders and European Union funds, which only too often is awarded to party allies or goes toward bribes. Bulgarian citizens' negative image of politics and government agencies isn't based just on talk; rather, these abuses have been repeatedly proven by transcripts from illegal wiretaps.

No way out

Bulgarians have more than enough grounds to want to dismantle the system. The slippery point here, however, is that the demonstrators have not been able to offer an alternative. They've formed no political party, instead vehemently fending off all attempts at politically co-optation.

Aside from a couple of generally formulated goals, they also have no understandable list of implementation measures - which would be required for the crisis-bound fields of education, healthcare, energy or the stagnating economy.

Politicians and experts who support the protests are seeking to forge a political coalition and carry out programmatic groundwork - with little success until now. Not in the least because of the lack of coherency in the protests, which include perspectives from both the left and the right.

Against this backdrop, the demonstrators' demands for the Plamen Orescharski government to step down appears hasty or even helpless. The extremely weak cabinet of socialists and of the Bulgarian Turk party - lacking a majority and merely tolerated by the rightwing extremist Ataka Party - is nothing more than a second-rate instalment in the sad history of post-Iron Curtain (and now EU member) Bulgaria.

Should the government indeed step down, a second parliamentary vote this year wouldn't change much, as demonstrators would have no time to organize themselves politically and practically.

A "revolutionary situation" is one where "the upper classes are unable" and "the lower classes do not want" to continue living the old way, the now-scorned (at least in the former Eastern Bloc) Vladimir Ilyich Lenin once wrote. And this is exactly the situation in which many Bulgarians feel themselves to be.

While the exit to this muddled vicious cycle is feverishly sought, escalation of protest and forced dispersal of the parliamentary building blockade in fact remain as logical consequences. It won't come to a real revolution in Bulgaria.

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