* A perennial dissident inspires protests
* It's only the beginning, he says
SOFIA, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Hundreds of Bulgarians, inspired
by a shaggy-haired poet, protested in front of parliament on
Saturday, some of them throwing tomatoes in what they are
calling a "tomato revolution" against corruption.
Waving banners saying "Stop political hypocrisy", the
protesters were kept too far away from parliament by police to
hit the building. But they vowed their protests would grow ahead
of a parliamentary election due next July.
"This is only the beginning of the protests," dissident
Nikolay Kolev, also known as "Bosiya" (The Barefooted), said.
The 61-year-old poet, imprisoned several times during the
communist regime, had already been detained briefly on Tuesday
after throwing a tomato at the parliament building in the
"I wanted to give an example of how to protest," he said.
Last week Kolev sent a letter to parliament, leading
political figures, the Supreme Judicial Council, state TV and
radio, threatening to throw tomatoes at their buildings and
saying they were responsible for widespread corruption, crime
and lack of media freedom in Bulgaria.
"I can no longer remain a hostage to hope and good manners.
Go to hell!" Kolev wrote at the end of his letter.
Corruption and organised crime blight Bulgaria 23 years
after the end of communist rule, hindering growth and delaying
its entry into the European Union's Schengen agreement, which
allows passport-free travel between countries.
Bulgarians gave about 150,000 bribes to civil servants every
month in 2011, exceeding the number in the previous year as a
government effort to curb corruption faltered, a survey showed
Living standards in Bulgaria remain among the EU's lowest,
while the jobless rate rose to 11 percent in October.
Thousands protested last Saturday against the government's
handling of the weak economy and also called on the ruling GERB
party to resign. [ID: nL5E8MH2RV]
(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Myra MacDonald)