Economic Policy Review ISSN 1313 - 0544

To Ban the Protests

Author: Zornitza Manolova / 05.02.2009
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The events of this week are forcing us to think. On Wednesday and Thursday we forgot for a while about the crises in Bulgaria, caused by external factors and turned our attention again towards the internal problems of the country. The preparation and carrying out of large-scale protests in front of the Parliament could not remain unnoticed by the people and the Government. Some people supported it, some remained indifferent, others did not agree. The Government began working feverously. However, it was not working to solve the problems of the protesters, but to solve the problems with the protesters.

The Ministry of Justice is preparing changes in the Bill about meetings, assemblies and manifestations. The last time this Bill was changed was in 1998. More than ten years later, after we saw the passing of a year marked by tens of protests and we met a new year again with protests it was decided to change the Bill. Apparently the ruling coalition decided that they had enough of angry people, yellow seas of cabbies, barricades of tractors or live stock.   

For these events in front of the Parliament certainly there are causes. Certainly there are ways of stopping them as well.

In the first place one could think how to make the people more satisfied. This is difficult, but there is a second approach - to ban the protests or at least to restrict them in order to become more pleasant and bearable for the Government. Actually the problems causing the increased number of protests from all areas of the people's lives are not resolved, but the allowable boundaries are reduced (which is much easier). The right of the free people to express their dissatisfaction is a completely different issue.

This does not matter. We already selected the second option.

Some of the other changes in the Bill about meetings, assemblies and manifestations include ban on:

  1. Livestock. Ban on including livestock in citizen's events.
  2. Taxies and tractors. Ban on including motor cars and trucks.  
  3. Protests at "inconvenient" places. It would not be possible to protest around the central buildings of the state institutions. The demonstrations could not take place near court buildings, hospitals, correction institutions, tunnels, bridges on the republican roads.
  4. Protests at "inconvenient" time. The mayors would be able to change the time and place of the demonstrations.
  5. Protests by "inconvenient" people. The mayors could order the filming of the protests. This practice is one of the methods of the so called "individual intimidation". The same is the recording of the personal data of the individual participants in the events, which was applied in these weeks' protests. Such methods are against the Bill on personal data and the Constitution of Bulgaria.
  6. The protests in general. The current notice regime for civic events is replaced by permissions. If a protest is banned the violators would be fined from 1,000 to 3,000 levs.

With reference to the proposed changes the next demonstration, let say by the farm producers, could take place in front of the Boyana Church. The farmer would arrive on bicycles and would carry fruits and vegetables. If only, they are given permission to demonstrate.