A sanctioned Bulgarian businessman and media tycoon will run for parliament in the November elections on the slate of the predominantly ethnically Turkish “Movement of Rights and Freedoms” (DPS), whose leader Mustafa Karadaya is in the race for president. Pundits say both moves mark a radicalisation of the party. EURACTIV Bulgaria reports.
On 14 November, Bulgarians will vote both for president and a new national assembly, after general elections in April and in July failed to produce a government.
The new election is marked by the arrival of a new political party, “Change continues”, built around Kiril Petkov, who was minister of economy in the first caretaker cabinet and is joined by his colleague who was responsible for finance, Assen Vassilev.
President Rumen Radev has a strong chance of being re-elected although he faces 23 challengers, including a turbo-folk singer.
Analysts say the elections demonstrate the radicalisation of DPS, as shown by the candidacy of tycoon Delyan Peevski, who is under US sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act and was also named in the Pandora Papers.
DPS says the accusations are not backed by proof and continue to support Peevski, who has reportedly sold most of his media empire and got rid of many of his businesses and now stands a good chance of being elected.
DPS is also putting forward its leader Karadaya as a presidential candidate although his support will likely reflect that of the party, around 10%.
The Bulgarian constitution prohibits ethnic parties and DPS represents the Turkish and Muslim minority in Bulgaria by enlarging its representation in Parliament with some ethnic Bulgarians.
In the European Parliament, DPS has three MEPs, sitting in the liberal Renew Europe group. At the European level, the party defends pro-EU causes – Bulgaria’s accession to the eurozone, North Macedonia’s membership in the EU, and the integration of minorities.
But in the last year, there have been shifts. In the 30 years since the fall of communism, DPS kept its distance from Ankara, but now it has established warm ties with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“DPS is doing three unusual things – an ethnic Turk is running for president, Delyan Peevski has been reinstated in the party’s electoral lists, Mustafa Karadaya has visited Erdogan. All three gestures are in the direction of radicalising DPS,” Bulgarian pollster Andrey Raichev commented.
According to him, support for DPS has not eroded following the scandals and negative public opinion around Peevski.
Until last year, Peevski was the most influential media mogul in Bulgaria, cited by Reporters Without Borders as the main reason for Bulgaria’s freefall in the media freedom rankings.
[Edited by Alice Taylor/Zoran Radosavljevic]