Thousands protest in Bulgaria against goverment, dismissing PM's olive branch

SOFIA (AFP) - Thousands of people protested in Bulgaria for a third day on Sunday in a show of anger against the government, dismissing the Prime Minister's bid to calm public outrage by reversing a controversial appointment of the country's top security chief.

About 15,000 protesters gathered outside the government headquarters in downtown Sofia on Sunday evening, according to police estimates. Smaller protests were also held in a handful of other cities.

Many were waving Bulgarian flags and shouting "Mafia!", "Resign!", and "Red garbage!" in what amounted to the biggest rallies in the past three days.

Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski's decision to appoint 32-year-old media mogul Delyan Peevski as chief of the powerful national security agency Dans and Parliament's rapidity in rubber stamping the nomination had angered the population.

Thousands poured into the streets in protest, sparking fears of a fresh political crisis just months after anti-poverty demonstrations brought down the previous government.

President Rosen Plevneliev also demanded an immediate review of the appointment, saying he had lost confidence in the government.

Mr Peevski on Saturday offered to step down from the post and Mr Oresharski said he accepted the resignation.

But protesters were not appeased.

Dr Georgy Milanov, a 50-year-old doctor, who was at Sunday's rally in Sofia with his wife, told Agence France-Presse: "We came to show the political class that things can no longer continue like that - the rich get richer while the middle class like us is being erased."

"This government was put forward as a technocrat one. We expected change. And now it's the same old faces selling us the same old tricks. This last Dans chief nomination was just disgusting," he added.

Another protester, a 29-year-old advertising company executive who refused to give her name, said: "The government is inadequate and must go. How could they even think they can put somebody like Peevski - with his total control of most Bulgarian media and his dirty money - as top security chief?"

Mr Peevski, who has no experience in the security sector, is a lawmaker from the Turkish minority MRF party, which is a key supporter of the two-week-old government.

He is however a controversial figure due to his outsized role in Bulgaria's media landscape. He is understood to be behind an empire of newspapers, newspaper distribution companies, television channels and news websites, although they are officially owned by his mother Irena Krasteva.