The Turkish media did not pay much attention to the early general elections held on March 26 in Bulgaria, the related incidents and their possible causes. Developments that concerned 650,000 Turkish voters remained behind our domestic referendum debates.
Compared to previous elections, in this election, two Turkish parties were unsuccessful despite Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) open support. The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (HÖH) passed the threshold, but its number of deputies fell to 26 from 38 because the votes were split.
HÖH is headed by honorary chair Ahmet Doğan, but the party’s official chair is Mustafa Karadayı. Opponents of Doğan regard him as “an agent of Todor Zhivkov who caused agony to Turks.”
When Kasım Dal split from HÖH, he formed another party and received one percent of the votes in the last elections. Upon this, again, another person to resign from HÖH was Lütfi Mestan, who founded the DOST Party with the support of the AKP. In a notorious incident, Doğan was attacked at the party convention; he quit his position, but kept the party under his control as the “honorary chair.”
Mestan, naturally, got closer to Turkey and the AKP. His aim was to obtain control over HÖH. He placed five people who had gone to theology faculties in Turkey in top spots on the candidate list. Deputy Chair Ruşen Rıza also was a person close to Turkey. They kept their close links to Turkey. They seemed like they were asking for more freedoms for Turks; but at the same time, they were against Turks speaking Turkish.
Tightening his reign more for the last three years, Mestan started to have more contact with people, making Doğan unhappy. In the Turkey-Russia plane crisis, when he talked in favor of Turkey in parliament, he was expelled from the party by Doğan, which shocked Turks.
Last December, Mestan’s bodyguards were withdrawn and he spent two nights at the Turkish Embassy in Sofia, claiming he was not safe. Later, he formed the DOST party, whose name was rejected because it was Turkish. Six months ago, the Supreme Court of Cassation allowed the name DOST.
Seven deputies from HÖH were among the founders. After it was decided that elections were to be renewed on March 26, DOST reinforced its ties with Turkey and the AKP. In the relationship between the Turks of both countries two names came forward, one was the head of the Turkey and Bulgaria Inter-parliamentary Friendship Group, Aziz Babuşçu, and Turkey’s Ambassador to Sofia Süleyman Gökçe.
Through muftis in Turkey and Bulgaria, a heavy “pressure” was exerted on Turks. Like in Turkey, food packages and all other election material of DOST was transferred from Turkey. The embassy’s vehicles took part in these transfers. Meanwhile, the appearance of Gökçe in one of DOST’s election campaign videos was the limit. Relations between the two countries were strained unprecedentedly since 1979.
Bulgaria withdrew its Ambassador to Ankara
Sending DOST an election campaign party bus, like the ones used in Turkey; strange monetary relations, several pro-party services in the media and treating HÖH as though it never existed, the closure of the border post, executive manager of the Governorate of Edirne, İbrahim Tarancı, being expelled from the country, Religious Affairs Attaché Ulvi Ata and deputy Aziz Babuşçu not being allowed to enter Bulgaria; all of these carried the tension between the two countries to a peak.
On the March 26 elections DOST could not pass the four percent threshold after only receiving three percent of the votes.
HÖH’s votes fell from 15.8 percent to 8.4 percent; its number of deputies fell to 26.
In Turkey, about 245,000 dual citizens cast their votes. It is noteworthy that 33,032 votes cast in Turkey for the two parties were not considered valid due to several errors.
While there were 141 voting stations in Turkey in previous elections, this time the figure was 35. The swarming of voters to stations caused prolonging of procedures. Several other matters increased inconveniences. There were family fights in the voting stations.
While the AKP was working for DOST, members of the CHP
were supporting HÖH. There was a serious split and this was good for nobody.