Earlier this week, Bulgarian dissident Nikolay Kolev sent a letter to the Parliament, the President, the Prime Minister and the national media, threatening to protest against the widespread corruption, crime and lack of media freedom in Bulgaria by staging a ‘tomato assault’ – throwing tomatoes at their buildings.
Kolev’s letter, which ends “I can no longer remain a hostage to hope and good manners. Go to hell!” was taken seriously, and around 40 police officers were waiting for him when he approached his first target. He was arrested after throwing his first tomato.
Levels of corruption experienced by citizens and businesses in Bulgaria remain high; around 1 in 4 citizens who had an interaction with the state administration in 2011-12 were asked to provide extra (informal) payments to receive services. In addition, the percentage of those who bribed administration officials on their own initiative increased from around 4% to 11% between 2007 and 2012. On average, around 150,000 corrupt transactions took place per month in 2011 in Bulgaria.
Yesterday, in what is now being called the ‘tomato revolution‘ against corruption, 300 protestors carrying tomatoes gathered in front of the parliament in Sofia both to protest against Kolev’s arrest and to support his cause.