Bulgaria is undergoing a deep political crisis. A mass social mobilisation against austerity, poverty and electricity price rises took place in February, toppling the centre-right government. After elections in May, the independent Plamen Oresharski became prime minister (back in 1997 he was one of the architects of currency board that led into a regime of unrelenting austerity, long before Greece and the rest of western Europe). The round of popular unrest going on for over 160 days, erupted over the controversial appointment of Delyan Peevski, a media mogul, as a head of national security. Originally, demonstrations had participants from all sides of the political spectrum demanding the resignation of the government. Gradually, the protests became smaller after being hijacked by groups who saw them as a way of reviving 1990s anti-communism. Protesters started to call for “European values”, “morality in politics” and a “genuine break” with the communist past. When students occupied Sofia University’s main building last month, opposition saw it as an extension of their campaign and the media ignored the original radical content of the occupation: the old “communists v anti-communists” paradigm took over. But the occupation itself is curiously devoid of strong anti-communism, and another key difference is that not a single EU flag was raised inside the occupation, unlike in the street protests.
The students’ “moral revolution” sits uncomfortably with the attempt by political elites to find new legitimacy through reviving old political divisions. The students have explicitly distanced themselves from all the political parties that have dominated Bulgaria post-1989, directing their anger instead at the endless “transition” to democracy, with its misery and corruption. The occupation has gone beyond demanding just a government resignation that would result in a different set of politicians but the status quo remaining the same. The students organised workshops where they discussed their desired common future.