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High Energy Bills Keep Bulgarians Protesting

On Sunday, February 17, tens of thousands of people in Bulgaria's capital Sofia and other cities continued to protest against high electricity and heating bills, and against the monopoly of energy distribution companiesChCEZ, EVN, and Energo-Pro. The protesters are demanding the nationalization of Bulgaria's three power utilities – CEZ, EVN, and Energo-Pro, with the National Electric Company NEK.

More than 20,000 people showed up for the protest in Varna, 10,000 in Plovdiv, 6,000 in Sofia, 5,000 in Blagoevgrad. Four people were detained as protesters in downtown Sofia clashed with police who tried to cut the rally heading for the headquarters of power utility company CEZ.

The protesters want their demands met next week – and, if this does not happen, they are demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister and the President. Although nationalist parties tried to gain political advantage, protesters stood up against such manipulation, shouting “No parties!”

YouTube user iasssen posted this video of the Sofia protest (shot by SkyMedia-bg.com from the air using a quadcopter, sound recorded separately down on the ground). Another HD video from the Sofia protest was posted by user MickeyMouseFrance:

Bulgarian blogger Kostadin Kostadinov posted an entry titled “Where to after the revolt?”[bg]:

Around 100,000 people protested today across the country. The protests, which began as a reaction against the pompous arrogant and brusque bills, become more social and political. People chanted “Boyko [Boyko Borisov, Bulgarian PM] out” and “Down with [GERB, the ruling party],” and then wondered who would follow them. [...] What those 100,000, many of them young people, would do in the elections this summer is extremely important. Obviously, they have the potential to awake the sleeping Bulgaria and to make Bulgarians believe in themselves and change their country. On the other hand, they do not trust anyone, and they have a good reason.

Bulgarian blogger Sabina Panayotova expressed her pessimism about the Feb. 17 protests [bg]:

These people are not those people.
- People in [the summer 2012 protests of Eagle Bridge] are not those of today. The people today were sad, desperate and gray.
- Protests today were like [the anti-communist protests of 1989], except that afterwards they will likely bring communists back to power.
- Whatever happens after these protests will not be good. In the best case, it will remain as it is.

Taralezh (“Hedgehog”) blog commented on the missing responses from the ruling party and ministries:

The first men of the country ran away from the protests and the people's “love.” While hundreds of thousands chanted in the streets of 35 cities in the country, none of the leaders thought of returning to Sofia to stand in front of the citizens as [real] men.

D-r Beloliki blog posted a collection of photos of the Feb. 17 protests across Bulgaria. Dimi Lazhov posted photos from the northwestern city of Vratza where people protesting against the monopoly and the new “rain tax.” Facebook page Saprotiva (“Resistance”) has photos from the nationwide demonstrations as well, and there is also a Storify collection with reactions, here.

Bulgarian journalist Adelina Martini tweeted:

Thousands protest in various cities in #Bulgaria against high electricity prices, shouting “mafia” and “resignation”, local media report

Another Bulgarian journalist, Mariya Petkova, who is based in Cairo, tweeted about the protests, too:

Hundreds of thousands are out in the streets across #Bulgaria protesting private monopolies of utilities and economic hardship!!!

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