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News 12 Apr 16

New Bulgarian Party Denies Being Turkey's 'Trojan Horse'

New ethnic Turkish DOST party rejects claim that it is the long arm of Ankara - after Bulgarian nationalists urged the courts to block its registration.

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Bulgaria
DOST's chairman Lyutvi Mestan and deputy chairman Hussein Hafazov at the opening conference of the party. | Photo: Facebook

Bulgaria's new ethnic-Turkish party, Democrats for Responsibility, Freedom and Solidarity, DOST, denied having links to the Turkish government and confirmed its pro-NATO and pro-EU orientation on Tuesday.

Its leader, Lyutfi Mestan, who was ousted last December as chairman of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, MRF, the largest ethic Тurkish party in Bulgaria, presented the executive committee of his new formation at a press briefing in parliament.

The governing body of DOST, which means “friend” in Turkish, is comprised of 11 people, five of whom are deputy chairmen.

“Those who view the Euro-Atlantic direction of Bulgaria as a threat to their own interests will continue to attack our party as pro-Turkish,” Mestan said.

“We have no illusions. We will work in a hostile environment because DOST affects geopolitical, economic, political and corporate interests,” he added.

Mestan was referring to his former party, the MRF, which he condemned as “the Gordian knot of corruption, oligarchy and pro-Russian interests,” at the founding conference of DOST on Sunday.

His ousting was orchestrated by the MRF’s shadow leader, Ahmed Dogan, who claimed that Mestan had acted as a “fifth column” for Turkey after the downing of the Russian fighter plane by the Turkish army in November 2015. Mestan took Turkey's side in the acrimonious dispute.

After he was sacked from the MRF on December 24, Mestan took refuge in the Turkish embassy in Sofia, saying he was afraid for his security.

Among the many Turkish guests at the DOST founding conference were the ambassador to Bulgaria, Suleyman Gokce, the deputy chairperson of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party Party, Fatma Betul Kaya, and Turkish opposition politicians and the deputy chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party, Semih Yalcin.

“Wherever... the Turkish language is spoken, is a part of our homeland, for us”, Yalcin said.

Such statements, combined with the significant Turkish presence at the ceremony and Mestan’s friendly relations with Ankara, have angered Bulgarian politicians.

DOST “is not Euro-Atlantic, it is pro-Turkish. It is not democratic, but Ottoman, not liberal, but pro-Islamic”, Krasimir Karakachanov, leader of the nationalist VMRO party said on Sunday.

He urged the courts to block the party’s registration, claiming “it would lead Bulgaria into a Macedonian or Albanian scenario of an ethnically divided society”.

Bulgarian Vice-President Margarita Popova criticized the authorities for not reacting to the statements of the Turkish politicians who attended the DOST congress.

But, according to Mestan, who recently visited Ankara to meet the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu, there are no grounds for calling his party a “Trojan horse” of Turkey in Bulgaria.

He claimed that around 20 per cent of the over 1,000 founders of the party are of Bulgarian ethnic origin.

According to a recent survey by the polling agency Gallup International, a quarter of  the traditional supporters of MRF, which is the third biggest party in Bulgaria, plan to vote for DOST.

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