Hundreds Rally to Demand Resignation of Deputy PM over Disparaging Remark about Protesting Mothers of Disabled Children


Hundreds Rally to Demand Resignation of Deputy PM over
Disparaging Remark about Protesting
Mothers of Disabled Children

Sofia, October 22 (BTA) - Hundreds of people rallied outside the government building to support the mothers of children with disabilities as they demand the resignation - or removal - of Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov over a statement in which he described them as "loud women with allegedly sick children."

Simeonov's words were first broadcast by the SKAT TV channel last Tuesday and were later reproduced in a popular evening show on Nova TV, sparking angry reactions on social media. On several occasions ever since, Simeonov has said that he stands by his words. His last comment came after a meeting with employer organizations on Monday when he said that the campaign against him was politically motivated.

He also said that a political decision for his replacement can only be taken by the coalition council of GERB and his nationalist United Patriots coalition. "The three persons who can decide whether I should resign are [Prime Minister] Boyko Borissov, [IMRO leader and Defence Minister] Krassimir Karakachanov and [Ataka leader and United Patriots floor leader] Volen Siderov," Simeonov said.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has urged his deputy prime minister to apologize and even apologized on behalf of the government - but said nothing of whether or not he wants Simeonov out of the government.

The protesting mothers believe that Simeonov "uttered inadmissible, ugly and cynical words" about a large group of Bulgarian society and his subsequent refusal to take back his words "shows inadmissible arrogance and proves that he feels untouchable and entitled to use publicly such language with respect to entire social groups". The mothers have sent a letter to this effect to the Prime Minister, the Parliament leader and Simeonov himself.

The mothers also say that Simeonov's language "downplays the problems of the Bulgarian society and if we swallow this inadmissible behavior, it will be legitimized".

The protestors insist that Simeonov should never again be part of this country's government.

Protests against Simeonov are expected to be held across the country on Monday. On Tuesday, a rally will be held in London by Bulgarians living there.

At the Sofia protest, the mothers had brought along the medical certificates establishing the condition of their children. In response to Simeonov's "loud women" remark, they came with their mouths sealed with masking tape. They carried posters reading "Simeonov Out!" and "Simeonov Is a Disgrace for Bulgaria!".

One of the mothers, Vera Ivanova, said no politician in Europe would keep his office after saying such words and sticking by them for days on end. "It is a shame for the country," she said.

She is adamant that the protest will continue for as long as it takes for Simeonov to step down.

Simeonov found an ally in employer organizations. They said after meeting with him that they are not going to put up with yet another ministerial resignation, "especially that of a government member who works well with them".

Ataka announced Monday that they are stripping Simeonov of their confidence "because of inadmissible insults against disabled people". They said they would insist that somebody else be designated to represent the Patriots as a Deputy Prime Minister.

This position was widely anticipated considering a recent souring of relations between Simeonov and Ataka leader Volen Siderov.

The Ataka press office quoted Volen Siderov as saying in a statement that the coalition council of GERB and the United Patriots should meet as soon as Monday evening to discuss "Simeonov's inadmissible behavior and immediate resignation". He said that in the 21st century the Prime Minister, who is on a
visit to the UAE, should be able to participate in a meeting of the coalition council from a distance.

The other United Patriots partner, IMRO, said they will announce their position on the resignation demands at a coalition council scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. MP Milen Mihov (IMRO) told the press in Veliko Turnovo that the IMRO decision will be "patiently prepared and clearly declared". He also said that any change in the government "threatens stability".

Mihov argued that "the patriotic forces need to stand united and present a strong list of candidates for the upcoming elections for the European Parliament".

Quoted by his party's press centre, Volya leader Vesselin Mareshki said that Karakachanov stands firmly behind his colleague Simeonov and supports him in his fight against the mothers of disabled children. "The faster these two leave the government, the better it will be for Bulgaria and the Bulgarian people," Mareshki said.

Commenting the situation from Dubai where he is on an official visit Monday, Prime Minister Borissov urged the United Patriots parties to come to an agreement about what they should do with the resignation demands. Also, he called on the protesting mothers not to push too hard with the demand for Simeonov's
resignation and allow time for their demands about legislative changes, to be met.

He said a resignation of Valeri Simeonov would be a complex affair because it requires a decision by the United Patriots. "I can ask him to come down but it would not be legally binding in our relations. If I force him into resigning, it will break down the entire construct of the government and it will come down. I hope that the United Patriots will resolve their differences. Obviously, there is huge tension between Simeonov and Siderov but when they put their signatures under the [coalition] agreement, we agreed that it would be for four
years. Anything else is desertion, escaping responsibility and breaking the coalition agreement. The only thing I can do is ask the protesting mothers to wait and allow us time to deliver on our promise to them because their children are not 'allegedly
sick': they are truly sick," said Borissov.

He said in conclusion that his own resignation "would throw the country in chaos and everything we do, including the adoption of next year's budget, will go to waste".


BTA special correspondent Hristo Vodenov contributed to this story from Dubai.