This story is published in a content partnership with POLITICO. It was originally reported by Boryana Dzhambazova on politico.com on September 2, 2020. Riot police and protesters clashed on Wednesday in a significant escalation of street demonstrations against Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov that have been running for almost two months. Thousands of people packed the centre of Sofia in what is being dubbed a “grand national uprising” to demand the resignation of both Borissov and the country's chief prosecutor, Ivan Geshev. The protesters are incensed by the country's rampant corruption argue the two men have allowed powerful oligarchs to take control of core institutions such as the judiciary and abuse them for personal gain. On several occasions, police reportedly used pepper spray, while the demonstrators threw eggs, tomatoes, water bottles and garbage at police officers, who were cordoning off one of the major boulevards running by the parliament building. Dozens of people, including police and journalists, were taken to hospital, and several protesters were detained. Demonstrators have gathered in Sofia every evening since early July to protest a decline in the rule of law and state capture by oligarchs. Borissov, the leader of centre-right GERB party, has dominated the political landscape for more than a decade. Bulgaria, which joined the European Union in 2007, has been struggling to root out high-level corruption. A vast majority of Bulgarians – 80 per cent – see corruption as widespread and another 78 per cent think the only way to succeed in business is to have political connections, according to a 2019 Eurobarometer poll on corruption. “The state of democracy has been deteriorating for years,” said Boyan Bakardzhiev, a 35-year-old communications specialist, who attended the protest on Wednesday. “The close ties between oligarchs, shady businessmen and media are increasingly becoming more and more apparent.” Ana Dimitrova, a 51-year-old doctor at the protest, wanted a change in leadership. “I’m sick and tired of being governed by a bunch of uneducated, greedy and corrupt politicians. “My son has been living abroad for the past 10 years. I’m here so he could have a chance to return to his home country and have a normal life here,” she added. The rally started early, at 8am, and was planned to coincide with the Bulgarian parliament returning to session after the summer break. The protest was styled as the “grand national uprising” to mock Borissov’s plan to convene a Grand National Assembly, a type of super-parliament with extra lawmakers, to rewrite the constitution. At the beginning of Wednesday's parliamentary session, President Rumen Radev once again called for the resignation of Borissov’s Cabinet, which he previously described as a “mafia government”. “Your escape won’t save you from disgrace,” he told GERB lawmakers, as they were leaving the hall, shortly before the start of his address to the parliament. In a nod to his support for the protesters outside, Radev added, “This just goes to show that the actual parliament is out on the streets. “It wasn't the lack of a new constitution or a Grand National Assembly that drew the people to the streets, but rather the lack of morality in government … and the corruption,” said Radev, who was nominated by the Socialist Party and is a vocal critic of Borissov's government. In mid-August, in an attempt to defuse public anger, Borissov said he would step down once the lawmakers agreed to elect a Grand National Assembly to amend the constitution. Reading awkwardly from a scripted text, Borissov announced his plan to “restart the country” by offering a list of reforms, including halving the number of parliamentary deputies to 120, and overhauling the judiciary. Both protesters and the opposition dismissed Borissov’s proposal to revise the constitution as a smokescreen to buy his government time. “This is a hopeless attempt to stay in power for a bit longer,” said Bakardzhiev, the communications specialist. In a sign that timing is indeed critical to Borissov, the prime minister is steadfastly refusing to resign and is pushing ahead with plans to rewrite the constitution, even though that revision currently looks impossible given the positions of the parties in parliament. To trigger a Grand National Assembly and rework the constitution, the government needs support from more than two-thirds of the deputies, or at least 160 lawmakers in the 240-seat parliament. That seems out of reach given that two opposition parties refused to support it. Borissov's moves are more short term. On Wednesday, he cobbled together support from 127 lawmakers, which will enable him to at least begin debates on a new constitution, even if he knows he can never ultimately build a full quorum for a GNA. Read the original story here .