Sofia Central Area Effectively Blocked over 'Referendum Concert'

Society | October 29, 2016, Saturday // 12:39
Bulgaria: Sofia Central Area Effectively Blocked over 'Referendum Concert' File photo, BGNES

Sofia's downtown area is being subjected to a blockade for most of the weekend ahead of a concert staged by talkshow host Slavi Trifonov.

The unprecedented security measures have sparked controversy as the concert is part of Slavi Trifonov's campaigning for his referendum on several political issues.

The national poll is to be offered to voters alongside the presidential elections next week.

As many as 20 checkpoints, 100 representatives of the organizers, 70 employees of Sofia municipality and heavy police presence have been secured for the free-of-charge event which is expected to bring thousands to Trifonov's concert at 19:00 local time (EEST) on Saturday.

The so-called "concert meeting", aimed at urging the public to vote "yes" on all three issues, leave the area around Orlov Most ("Eagles' Bridge") completely sealed off.

Tsarigradsko Shose, in its section between Orlov Most and P. K. Yavorov Blvd (near Iztok and Izgrev neighborhoods) was closed at 00:15 on Saturday and will remain so until 08:00 on Sunday.

At noontime on Saturday, Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd between Orlov Most and Vasil Levski Blvd (the Sofia University crossroads) is also closed.

Evlogi i Hristo Georgievi Blvd remains closed between Orlov Most and Vasil Levski Blvd as of 15:00 on Saturday.

Bus and trolley lines of the public transport are also affected.

Sofia police chief Mladen Marinov on Friday told reporters that the "entire resource" of the Bulgarian capital's law enforcement unit has been mobilized for the event's purposes, plainclothes police included.

Apart from security reasons and the need to avoid provocations (the event being heavily loaded with political messages), works to mount the stage and equipment were also cited as a reason for the lockdown.

The area of Evlogi and Hristo Georgiev Blvd that is between Sofia University and Orlov Most will be used as a zone for emergency medical aid.

"Migrant hunter" Petar Nizamov, who gained fame by performing citizen's arrests of migrants earlier this year, has also said his vigilante patrols will be on duty to defend the female part of the audience from migrants.

Trifonov is a figure enjoying mixed reception among Bulgarians, with some criticizing him for his music which they define as an example of bad taste and close to the so-called "chalga" supposedly liked by ill-educated people. Others question his appetite for prominence in the political debate, dismissing it as populism that he would like to use as a stepping stone to power.

Others, however, see his referendum and the messages he is sending out against the entire political class as a means to change the country.

The three questions in the referendum proposal (there are other three which were dropped upon a Constituional Court ruling) are related to the introduction of compulsory voting, the introduction of a majority electoral system and cutting the state subsidy paid to political parties and coalitions to BGN 1 for each valid vote won by them in elections.

Compulsory voting was already introduced by lawmakers earlier this year and will be used for the first time in the forthcoming presidential elections.

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Tags: Slavi Trifonov, Referendum, sofia, concert, Presidential elections
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