Movement for Rights and Freedoms

The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (Bulgarian: Движение за права и свободи (ДПС), Dvizhenie za prava i svobodi (DPS); Turkish: Hak ve Özgürlükler Hareketi (HÖH)) is a centrist[5] political party in Bulgaria.

Movement for Rights and Freedoms

Bulgarian: Движение за права и свободи
Turkish: Hak ve Özgürlükler Hareketi
PresidentMustafa Karadayi
Honorary PresidentAhmed Dogan
Founded4 January 1990; 30 years ago (1990-01-04)
MembershipDecrease 66,000 in 2015 (3rd)[1]
Social liberalism[4]
Turkish minority interests[5]
Political positionCentre[5]
Regional affiliationLiberal South East European Network
European affiliationAlliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
International affiliationLiberal International
European Parliament groupRenew Europe
National Assembly
25 / 240
European Parliament
3 / 17
Ahmed Dogan (left) at the foundation conference

It is a member of the Liberal International and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). While representing the interests of Muslims, especially Turks and to a lesser extent Pomaks (Muslim Bulgarians), the party also receives the largest share of Romani votes and 9 out of its 36 deputies are not of Muslim background.[6] At the 2014 parliamentary elections, 3% of Bulgarians, 83% of Turks, and 44% of Romani voted for the movement (a record share of the Romani vote).[7] Because the party received strong support from predominately Christian Romani villages, it has been accused of vote trading.[8]


The party was officially established in 1990, but the official website of the party traces the roots of the foundation to 1983 when an illegal terrorist group Turkish National Freedom Movement was established, which committed over 50 fire-raisings, bomb attempts and murders on regular citizens until 1989 as a rebellion against the assimilation policies of Todor Zhivkov's communist regime.[9] After he had been set free out of the jail in 1989, Ahmed Dogan, a former member of the Bulgarian communist secret service (the Committee for State Security), established the party. He headed it from its official establishment on 4 January 1990 until 19 January 2013, when a disgruntled Bulgarian Turk attacked him with a gas pistol.[10] Ahmed Dogan has been openly recorded promoting changes of the international boundaries in accordance with the ethnic borders, clarifying that there are either peaceful and political means for this or military and aggressive.[11] The ethnic or religious minority parties are not allowed according to Article 11, Paragraph 4 of the Constitution of Bulgaria, but the Constitutional Court denied to ban the party in 1992.[12]

On 19 January 2013, Lyutfi Mestan was elected as the second chairman of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.[13] Mestan was removed from power by the insistence of the founder Dogan because he had declared support for Turkey for the shot Russian airplane, then Erdoğan blacklisted Ahmed Dogan banning him from entering Turkey.[14] Mestan formed his own party, named Democrats for Responsibility, Solidarity and Tolerance.

Electoral resultsEdit

Starting in 1990 as the first political party of the Muslim minority participating in the parliamentary elections, in the first elections in 1990 after the end of the communist regime, which the Muslims had boycotted, the party won 6.0% of the popular vote and 24 out of 400 seats and became the fourth largest party in the parliament. In the parliamentary elections in 1991 it won 7.6% of the vote and remained with 24 seats in а 240-seater parliament. In the elections in 1994 it won 5.4% of the vote and its seats decreased to 15. In the elections in 1997 it won 7.6% of the vote and 19 out of 240 seats. From 2001 to 2009, the party was part of the government, first in a coalition with the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) party and then with the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). The party had ministers in the Sakskoburggotski Government, Stanishev Government and Oresharski Government (2013-2014).

It won in the elections in 2001 7.5% of the vote and 21 out of 240 seats. Subsequently, for the first time the party joined a coalition government, which was led by the winner of the elections (NDSV). Under the control of the party were two out of the 17 Bulgarian ministries – the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests and the Minister without portfolio, the other 15 remained under the control of senior coalition partner NDSV. At the 2005 elections it increased to 12.8% of vote and 34 out of 240 seats and was kept in power as a part of the coalition led by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) party. The ministries under the control of the Movement of Rights and Freedoms increased to three out of 18.

At the 2009 elections it increased to 14.0% of vote and 37 out of 240 seats. Following the election, the government was totally occupied by the decisive winner, the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms was еxcluded from the government and remained in opposition after having been part of coalition governments for the two consecutive preceding terms between 2001 and 2009. At the 2009 European Parliament elections the party won 14.1% of the vote and three MEPs out of Bulgaria's total representation of 18. Two of the MEPs are ethnic Turks (Filiz Husmenova and Metin Kazak) and one (Vladko Panayotov) is ethnic Bulgarian.

In the Bulgarian parliamentary election in 2013, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms decreased to 11.3% of the vote; it took 36 seats and remained the third biggest party. The DPS won the elections abroad with 41.3% and the most polling stations and voters in a foreign country were in Turkey.

The DPS won four MEPs in the 2014 European Parliament elections.

Percentage of votes for MRF by electoral districts in the 2014 parliamentary elections
Map showing impressive performance of MRF at the 2015 Bulgarian local elections compared to the other minority party People's Party Freedom and Dignity, which won no mayors of the municipalities or councils.
Bulgarian Parliament
Election # of seats won # of total votes % of popular vote rank
23 / 400
491,596 8.03% 3rd
24 / 240
418,168 7.6% 3rd
15 / 240
283,094 5.44% 4th
19 / 240
323,429 7.6% 3rd
21 / 240
340,395 7.45% 4th
34 / 240
467,400 12.81% 3rd
38 / 240
610,521 14.45% 3rd
36 / 240
400,466 11.31% 3rd
38 / 240
487,134 14.84% 3rd
26 / 240
315,976 8.99% 4th
European Parliament
Election # of seats won # of total votes % of popular vote rank
4 / 18
392,650 20.26% 3rd
3 / 18
364,197 14.14% 3rd
4 / 17
386,725 17.27% 3rd
3 / 17
323,510 16.55% 3rd


Ethnic natureEdit

On 8 October 1991, ninety-three members of Bulgaria's National Assembly — virtually all of them affiliated with the former Communist Party — asked the constitutional court to declare the DPS unconstitutional citing article 11.4 of the constitution which explicitly bans political parties "formed on ethnic, racial, and religious basis".[15] On 21 April 1992, the court rejected the petition and affirmed the constitutionality of the DPS.[16]

Even though the DPS has been legally a part of Bulgarian political life since then, some Bulgarian nationalists, particularly the far-right National Union Attack, continue to assert that it is anti-constitutional because it consists mainly of ethnic Turks.

However, the statute of the DPS states quite clearly that it "is an independent public and political organization, founded with the purpose of contributing to the unity of all Bulgarian citizens".[17]

Additionally, supporters of DPS argue that banning parties on the basis of their ethnic composition constitutes an instance of ethnic discrimination and is in contravention to European law, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in particular to which Bulgaria is a signatory. Furthermore, despite a similar constitutional ban, religious parties, such as the Bulgarian Christian Coalition have competed for parliamentary elections since 1997, and again in 2005, without any political upheaval.

More recently, Antonina Zheliazkova, head of the Centre for Interethnic Relations in Sofia, praised Ahmed Dogan by stating that "He has been working hard to open up the party to all citizens and has encouraged the DPS's supporters to be free to vote for non-ethnic parties".[18]

Other Turkish political factionsEdit

At present there are three other tiny Turkish political factions that oppose the DPS’s politics. These groups — which united to form the Balkan Democratic League — are the Movement of the Democratic Wing (DDK), led by Osman Oktay; the Party for Democracy and Justice (PDS), led by Nedim Gencev; and the Union of the Bulgarian Turks (SBT), led by Seyhan Türkkan.[18]

However, these movements, as well as the National Movement for Rights and Freedoms, member of a Social-Democratic coalition ('Rose coalition') failed to secure any elected representative in the parliament. A party founded in 2011 by members who left the party and headed by Korman IsmailovPeople's Party Freedom and Dignity, gained 1.5% of the vote in a coalition with National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) and therefore did not cross the 4% threshold to enter the parliament.[19] This party was part of the Reformist Bloc and crossed the threshold and entered the parliament and the government in 2014, but only with one Deputy Minister that was removed. Another political fraction DOST founded by the former leader Mestan, had 17,000 registered members in 2016, which were obtained only for about one year.[20] If so, the members of the Movement of Rights and Freedoms must have dropped in numbers.

Alleged manipulation of votesEdit

The DPS was severely criticized by the Bulgarian ultra-nationalist party Attack as well as mainstream right-wing political parties such as Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (DSB) and the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) and even by DPS coalition partners of the National Movement Simeon II for allegedly manipulating the vote in the June 2005 elections in some places by bringing Bulgarian citizens of Turkish origin living in Turkey to vote in the elections.[citation needed] However, allegations of ethnic Turks coming to vote in Bulgaria at their permanent address and then returning to Turkey to vote with their passports, could not be "verified or confirmed" by international observers, whose assessment on the election was that it was free and fair.[21]

Liberal party opposing privatizationEdit

In February 2005, the DPS opposed the privatisation of Bulgaria's largest tobacco company, Bulgartabac, which was backed by the government and the European Union, on the grounds that the industry traditionally employs ethnic Turks. The resulting crisis led to the resignation of vice premier Lidia Shuleva.[18]

Delyan PeevskiEdit

Delyan Peevski Is "a highly controversial figure in Bulgarian politics, business and media." He has served several terms of office in Bulgaria's Parliament as a DPS MP. He even served as head of the Bulgarian FBI equivalent (the State Agency for National Security) for one day, "but after mass protests broke out in the streets was forced to hand in his resignation."[22]

As of 2016, he had served as a member of Parliament in three National Assemblies.[23]

He has a number of stakes in businesses, particularly in the media. According to Bulgarian National Television, "In 2015, he officially acquired shares in Balkan Media Group, which includes the newspapers “Telegraph”, “Minitor”, “Politika”, "Meridian Match” and others. He has shares in Technomarket and in a factory for cigarette packaging. He declared he had stakes in 4 foreign companies. He was a minority shareholder in Bulgartabak, from where he withdrew at the beginning of 2016."[23]

In April 2017, 240 MPs were sworn in at the opening session of Bulgaria's 44th National Assembly. Peevski was among them, serving a fourth term, although, as Balkan Insight reported, "his nomination as chief of the national security service in 2013 sparked Bulgaria’s largest street protests in nearly a decade."[24]

Served as head of State Agency for National Security for one dayEdit

Plamen Oresharski announced in June 2013 that "controversial figure and MRF MP Delyan Peevski was being nominated to head the State Agency for National Security."[25]

The Bulgarian Parliament voted to make him the head of the agency. "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)."[26] Peevski said that he didn't understand why he was being blamed for trying to take the helm of the agency. He complained that Bulgaria's law enforcement institutions were "submerged by false signals" against him.[26]

According to the Sophia Globe, "The widely supported public protests unleashed by that move and the May 2014 thrashing of the BSP ( Movement for Rights and Freedoms) in European Parliament elections ultimately led to the government having to resign."[25]

His appointment "sparked the largest protests since the fall of communism, with tens of thousands of citizens heading to the streets."[27]

In October 2013, the constitutional court reinstated Peevski as an MP. This led to thousands of students to occupy Sofia University, the largest university in Bulgaria. The occupation temporarily shut down the university.[27]

Abruptly announced stopping doing businessEdit

On March 21, 2016, Peevski announced that he would withdraw from doing any business projects in Bulgaria.[23] He said that the reason was undue political pressure and the "ongoing media campaign against him." He blamed the media campaign for having a negative effect on the companies that he owned.[23]

In early March 2016, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov suspended public procurement procedures. He gave, as one of his reasons, that there was public opinion that companies allegedly linked to Peevski were involved.[23]

Viewed as symbol of corruption in Bulgaria politicsEdit

Peevski likes to call himself "a young and successful man" in Bulgaria. However, most of Bulgaria's society views Peevski as the symbol of corruption in politics. According to Balkan Insight in 2016, "Over 15 years, Delyan Peevski, who is still only 35, has scaled the dizzy heights of Bulgarian politics and business life."[28]

In February 2016, he came "under unprecedented attack. His very future in politics now looks in doubt."[28]

“Peevski has become the personification of the mafia-oligarchic way in which Bulgaria is governed,” Ognyan Minchev, director of the Institute for Regional and International Studies, said.[28]

According to Standart, "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."[28]

Uses business empire to back the party in powerEdit

Freedom House reported, "Corruption is a serious concern in Bulgaria. Both the EU interventions and the KTB collapse in 2014 were seen as consequences of illicit collusion among the political and economic elite. Peevski’s New Bulgarian Media Group (NBMG) consistently supports the party in power."[29]

According to the 2016 book The Kremlin Playbook: Understanding Russian Influence in Central and Eastern Europe, Peevski "controls a business empire spanning at least five economic sectors including media and telecommunications, energy, construction, tobacco, and defense, making him one of the most powerful individuals in the country."[30]

2014 election: Protests, winning, and abruptly abandoning his seatEdit

According to EUObserver in April 2014, "The recent appointment of controversial media mogul Delyan Peevski to head the candidates' list in three areas for the Turkish party Movements for Rights and Freedoms has triggered new protests in Sofia."[31]

DPS defended its nomination, saying Peevski was nominated because he has a good reputation and is a successful businessman who could help the country get European Union funds.[31]

Sociologist Andrey Raichev of Gallup International said Peevski's candidacy was more about removing him from the national political scene and "rewarding him as he is close to the previous political leader of the party, Ahmed Dogan, one of the most influential and powerful politicians in the country."[31]

EUObserver wrote, "Bulgarians were outraged that Peevski, who along with his mother Irena Krasteva, manages a growing media empire that backs whichever government is in power, is set to be elected to the European Parliament in next month's [2014] vote."[31]

Since the protests in June 2013, he has not once been seen at the Bulgarian Parliament.[31]

The Socialist Party supported his candidacy, believing that it would mobilize voters to go to the polls, resulting in a higher turnout and thus "thwarting Peevski’s shot at the EU parliament, which would also draw a line under the political unrest that marked 2013." Many believe that if Peevski were to be elected to the EU parliament, he would continue to manage his businesses from Brussels rather than doing a good job in the parliament position.[31]

"Much to the relief of the European liberal family", Peevski abruptly announced on election night that he would not take up his seat in Bulgaria's Parliament, despite being elected. He ceded his seat to Iskra Mihailova, then-minister of ecology.[32]

References and notesEdit

  1. ^ "Само 344 000 членове стоят зад партиите в парламента".
  2. ^ Cerami, Alfio (2006), Social Policy in Central and Eastern Europe: The Emergence of a New European Welfare Regime, Lit verlag, p. 26
  3. ^ Pantev, Plamen (2010), "Bulgaria", NATO at 60, IOS Press, p. 70
  4. ^ Nikolai Genov; Anna Krasteva (1 January 2001). Recent Social Trends in Bulgaria, 1960-1995. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. p. 293. ISBN 978-0-7735-6825-9.
  5. ^ a b c Nordsieck, Wolfram (2017). "Bulgaria". Parties and Elections in Europe.
  6. ^ "Народно събрание на Република България - Парламентарни групи".
  7. ^ "Труд – Влез в новините". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2018-05-03.
  8. ^ "Как ДПС печели всички избори в Галиче - bTV Новините". Retrieved 2018-05-03.
  9. ^ Pirro, Andrea L. P. (2015-06-05). The Radical Right in Europe. ISBN 9781317557128.
  10. ^ "Октай Енимехмедов влезе в затвора в Бургас".
  11. ^ "Доган заговори за етническо прекрояване на българските граници!".
  12. ^ "Народно събрание на Република България - Конституция".
  13. ^ "Mestan Succeeds Dogan as Bulgarian Ethnic Turkish Party Leader after Assassination Attempt". Novinite. 2013-01-19. Retrieved 2013-01-20.
  14. ^ "Турция забрани на Ахмед Доган и Пеевски да влизат на територията й (обзор)".
  15. ^ "Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria". Retrieved 2009-03-21.
  16. ^ Ganev, Venelin I. (2004). "History, Politics and the Constitution: Ethnic Conflict and Constitutional Adjudication in Postcommunist Bulgaria". Slavic Review. 63 (1): 66–89. doi:10.2307/1520270. JSTOR 1520270.
  17. ^ "Statute of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms". Archived from the original on 2009-04-29. Retrieved 2009-03-21.
  18. ^ a b c "Bulgaria: Turkish Party Urged to Rethink Policies* - — Sofia News Agency". Retrieved 2009-03-21.
  19. ^ "Резултати :: Избори за народни представители 2013".
  20. ^ "Лютви Местан в Пловдив: Ще подкрепим кандидат за президент-ярък натовец". Traffic News.
  21. ^ "Page not found - OSCE" (PDF).
  22. ^ "Smoke billowing from Delyan Peevski's business empire". Retrieved 2017-06-14.
  24. ^ "Newcomers Dominate Bulgaria's New Parliament :: Balkan Insight". 2017-04-20. Retrieved 2017-06-14.
  25. ^ a b "Bulgaria presidential elections: Movement for Rights and Freedoms officially endorses Oresharski". The Sofia Globe. 2016-10-20. Retrieved 2017-06-14.
  26. ^ a b "Bulgarian symbol of the shady power brokerage withdraws from European Parliament". Standart News. Retrieved 2017-06-14.
  27. ^ a b "Bulgarians protest controversial MEP listing". Retrieved 2017-06-14.
  28. ^ a b c d "Bulgaria Turns on its Golden Boy, Peevski :: Balkan Insight". 2016-02-18. Retrieved 2017-06-14.
  29. ^ "Bulgaria | Country report | Freedom in the World | 2015". 2015-01-21. Retrieved 2017-06-14.
  30. ^ Conley, Heather A.; Mina, James; Stefanov, Russian; Vladimirov, Martin (2016). The Kremlin Playbook: Understanding Russian Influence in Central and Eastern Europe. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 19.
  31. ^ a b c d e f Popkostadinova, Nikoleta (2014-04-15). "Bulgarians protest controversial MEP listing". EUObserver. Retrieved 2017-06-14.
  32. ^ "Стандарт - Новини, които си струва да споделим". Стандарт - Новини, които си струва да споделим (in Bulgarian). Retrieved 2017-06-14.[permanent dead link]

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit