Turkish votes on target in Bulgarian elections

Turkish votes on target in Bulgarian elections

Erdem Güneş / Melda Türkkanlar ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish votes on target in Bulgarian elections

A worker sticks up election posters of the Socialist Party in Sofia. According to the latest surveys, ex-Premier Borisov’s party will get a majority of the votes. AFP photo

Early parliamentary elections in Bulgaria May 12 will see two minority parties compete for Turkish votes.

The People’s Party for Freedom and Dignity (HŞHP), chaired by Korman İsmailov, will be chasing Turkish voters’ support to push the election threshold while Lütfi Mestan’s Movement for Rights and Freedoms (HÖH), which is represented in Parliament and mostly depends on Turkish-origin Bulgarian citizens’ votes, will again secure parliamentary seats, according to the latest polls.

İsmailov said there was no doubt that his party would pass the election threshold. “We launched a new path with new cadres, parting the ways with the HÖH after malpractice in that party. Their false policies in the last 20 years made us take this way in the end. Lütfi Mestan is the one responsible for the wrong policies, especially in the mother tongue language issue in Bulgaria. In the early 1990s there were more than 114,000 of students taking Turkish language classes, and this dropped to 7,000 as of last year,” İsmailov said in a phone interview with the Hürriyet Daily News on May 10. İsmailov blamed Mestan’s HÖH for being immoral and “serving the assimilation policies” in Bulgaria. “The most crucial policy for us is not to disconnect from Turkey,” İsmailov said.

‘HÖH not successful’

The Turkish-Bulgarian Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group chairman and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy, Mustafa Öztürk, said the HÖH had not succeeded at solving the problems of Turkish-origin Bulgarian citizens and couldn’t develop good ties with Turkey.

“The people want a change,” Öztürk told the Daily News, referring to the Turkish minority in Bulgaria. “They want to be active, notable, respectable citizens while preserving their ethnic and religious identity.”

“We want a movement that will realize this change and that will support our people and defend their rights. The HŞHP seems like they would make this change and improve relations with the Turkish government.”

“It is a newly established party that depicts HÖH’s problems. There is hope and light in this party,” he said.

Turkey is supporting the HŞHP, Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Tekirdağ deputy Bülent Belen also said on May 4, adding that the Turkish government had initiated a “Balkan Spring” similar to the “Arab Spring” to interfere with Bulgaria’s internal affairs.

Some 86,000 Bulgarian citizens living in Turkey will vote on May 12. Bayram Çolakoğlu, the head of the Balkan Turks Culture and Solidarity Association said there were 500,000 Bulgarian citizens in Turkey, of whom 150,000 have the right to vote, but only 86,000 of them have applied to vote. In 16 Turkish cities Bulgarian citizens will be able to vote.

According to eight new opinion surveys, ex-premier Boyko Borisov’s GERB party is forecast to be the top vote-getter, only three months after resigning amid Bulgaria’s biggest unrest in years. But his party’s projected 29 to 35 percent of the vote is a far cry from the 39.7 percent that the charismatic Borisov scored in 2009 and well short of the level needed for a governing majority.