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News 02 Jun 17

Bulgarian Politician Demands 'Outing' of Gay MPs

Bulgarian populist leader Vesselin Mareshki's call for gay MPs to reveal their sexual orientation - as a form of conflict of interest - has prompted both outrage and laughter.

Mariya Cheresheva
Vesselin Mareshki. Photo: mareshkizaprezident.bg

Bulgarian MP Vesselin Mareshki has caused outrage for demanding that MPs reveal their sexual orientation - as a potential form of conflict of interest - together with whether they have alcohol or drug issues.

In an interview for NOVA TV on Friday the populist leader said gay people in power were hiding their sexual orientation, which potentially makes them “dependent on people who have secret recordings of their activities.

“I do not understand why homosexuals in power hide. Maybe they consider this something shameful,” the MP said, noting that “as free people they march on the squares” and “want to be seen”.

The MP mused that, by being open to blackmail, it could even “lead us to war with Russia”.

Mareshki, who owns chains of low-cost pharmacies and petrol stations, entered parliament for the first time at the snap election in March.

He and his populist party, Volya, which has 12 MPs in parliament but is not part of the governing coalition, have gained a certain amount of international fame after Mareshki described himself as the Bulgarian Donald Trump.

Angered by Socialist MP Kristian Vigenin, who criticised his joining a presidential delegation to the Vatican on May 24, Mareshki attacked his colleague on Wednesday as a homosexual.

Together with declaring their economic interests, he then also said MPs should be forced to reveal also their “homosexual conflicts of interest” and “conflicts of interest based on alcoholic and drug dependencies”.

Following condemnation from LGBTI rights groups – and silence from all parties in parliament -  Mareshki on Friday said he had been misinterpreted by “fake news”.

Radoslav Stoyanov, one of the organisers of the forthcoming Sofia Pride on June 10, said the unwillingness of Bulgarian politicians to reveal their sexual orientation was indeed a problem - but Mareshki’s position was not aimed at resolving the issue.

“His statement carries the message that gay people have to be deprived of political representation and should not be in power,” he said.

But, the activist said the presence of far-right anti-gay parties in parliament was less of problem than the lack of reaction to homophobic statements from the mainstream parties.

“We will not see any [political] reaction because maybe they [political parties] consider this as something normal,” Stoyanov added, noting that no LGBTI initiative had ever received support on a national level.

On Thursday, LGBTI organisations called on the speaker of parliament Dimitar Glavchev to sanction Mareshki for his “homophobic statement”, noting that Bulgaria's level of acceptance of LGBTI people was almost the lowest in the EU.

Mareshki’s ideas have meanwhile provoked much mirth online. One petition has called on him to revel his “heterosexual dependencies”.

Building trust between citizens and MPs will be “unthinkable if voters cannot take a look into the bedroom of every member of the parliament,” it says.

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