Rogue candidate puts Bulgarian party at odds with EU allies

Delyan Peevski

A controversial MEP candidate has put the Bulgarian Movement of Rights and Freedoms party at odds within its own Liberal group, and has antagonised its potential allies, the Socialists, and the centre-right European People’s Party.

The nomination of Delyan Peevski, a controversial businessman, for MEP, is creating tension both at home, and in EU circles. Peevski, 33, is a member of parliament from the Movement of Rights and Freedoms (DPS), a political party representing the Turkish minority in Bulgaria. DPS is affiliated with ALDE, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe.

Last June, the Bulgarian parliament voted to make Peevski the head of the country’s State Agency for National Security (DANS). This almost brought down the then two-week old government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, who leads a minority coalition between the Socialists and the DPS. The situation also embarrassed Sergei Stanishev, the leader of the Bulgaria Socialist Party (BSP), who is also leader of the Party of European Socialists (PES)  [read more].

The parliament vote was reversed, but protests against Peevski’s nomination, and demands that the cabinet resign, continue.

In Bulgaria, Peevski is considered a symbol of the shady power brokerage that has impoverished Bulgarians, and ruined the country’s reputation. Officially, Peevski has no property, but it is widely assumed that he controls vast economic interests, and a powerful media group, which is waging a dirty war against his political opponents.

It is therefore surprising that MRF decided to put Peevski in the European elections list. Although the list has not yet been officially adopted, Peevski ranks second, which guarantees his election. The party leader, Lyutvi Mestan, explained that almost all DPS constituencies nominated Peevski for MEP. He admitted that he had hesitations, in view of broader public opinion, but that he could not overlook the wishes of the party’s electorate. Political analysts say that DPC voters are highly obedient, and would not nominate anyone without instructions from above.

Both the Socialists and Democrats, and the European Peoples Party, reacted with dismay at the news from Bulgaria. S&D leader Hannes Swoboda said that this nomination was surprising, in view of the boisterous protests following the failed attempt at nominating Peevski as head of the country’s security services. Swoboda also mentioned that he was against oligarchy, “be it in Russia, Ukraine, or EU countries”, implying that Peevksi embodies Bulgaria’s oligarchy.

EPP Vice President Manfred Weber called Peevski’s nomination an “inacceptable signal”, adding that his organisation would never work with such MEPs.

Officially, the ALDE group says that each sister party is free to choose its candidates. But off the record, people close to the ALDE leadership expressed their grief over the way the DPS is acting.

Political analysts in Bulgaria fail to explain what they see as the provocative behaviour of the DPS, against their political allies, both at home, and abroad. One possible explanation advanced by Ivaylo Dichev is that Ahmed Dogan, the founder of the DPS, who is also seen as a symbol of oligarchy, wants to humiliate his Socialist allies, in order to demonstrate to the public that he calls the shots. Others say that to the contrary, that Dogan may be trying to get rid of Peevski, by sending him to Strasbourg.

The DPS list is reportedly led by Filiz Hyusmenova, an MEP, with an excellent reputation. The political force is expected to win three seats, the third candidate being deputy minister of defence Nedjim Ali. 

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