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SOFIA: A Bulgarian protester who set himself on fire last month has died, the second fatality in nationwide rallies against high power bills and graft that have toppled a government and fuelled demands for political change.
Giving new impetus to daily demonstrations in their fourth week, Bulgarians prepared to stage memorial services for Plamen Goranov, a 36-year-old artist who set himself alight at the city hall in the Black Sea port of Varna on February 20.
Goranov has become a symbol for the hundreds of thousands of protesters who first took to the streets last month in anger over high utility bills, triggering the right-of-centre cabinet’s resignation and the calling of a new election in May.
Media and demonstrators have compared Goranov to Jan Palach, the Czech student who set himself on fire in 1969 in protest at the Soviet occupation of the former Czechoslovakia, and Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor whose self-immolation triggered protests that spread across much of the Arab world. Bulgarian activists with differing aims are pursuing issues ranging from nationalising power distributors and raising living standards to ending the persistent graft that has dogged governments since before the country joined the EU in 2007.
But they have no joint list of demands and have rejected an offer by President Plamen Plevnielev to include them in a public council overseeing the work of an interim government because they did not agree to the participation of wealthy businessmen.
Yesterday, a citizen initiative called “The Eagle Bridge”, after a span over Sofia’s canal where the rallies began, said it would hold a conference on Saturday.