Sofia City Court has turned down an application to register former Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) leader Lyutvi Mestan’s new party DOST.
Mestan founded the party after he was ousted as MRF leader by Ahmed Dogan because Mestan had sided with Turkey in its late 2015 dispute with Russia.
Mestan called his party Democrats for Responsibility, Tolerance and Solidarity, with the Bulgarian abbreviation DOST – which means “friend” in Turkish.
Sofia City Court Judge Lilia Ilieva, in declining to register the party, cited the use of a word of Turkish origin, adding that this word had been displayed on banners at the founding meetings of Mestan’s party.
Judge Ilieva added that most of the founders had names of Turkish origin. Dwelling at length on the attitude in the founding documents expressed towards Bulgaria’s constitution, she concluded that the party would have a character that was, if not racial or religious, based on ethnicity.
Bulgaria’s constitution forbids political parties based on racial, religious or ethnic identity.
The Sofia City Court’s decision may be appealed against in the Supreme Court of Cassation within seven days.
Mestan, who was MRF leader from January 2013 to December 2015, said on July 8 2016 that the Sofia City Court’s decision was bad news for democracy and the Euro-Atlantic image of Bulgaria.
He said that an appeal against the court’s decision would be lodged, noting that in the registration application process, the Prosecutor’s Office had no objection to the legality of the DOST party.
According to Mestan, the reasons cited by the judge in refusing registration of the party raised doubts of bias.
The Bulgarian language had many words derived from foreign origin, including those for democracy, parliament, institutions, politics and minister. The mere presence of the word in the Bulgarian dictionary proved that it was part of the language, Mestan said.
By the logic of the judge, a party using the word democracy in its name should be refused registration, he said. Mestan added that GERB (in Bulgarian, meaning “coat of arms”, and serving as the Bulgarian-language abbreviation for the name of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s party) came from the German word “erbe”.
Mestan dismissed the statement that his party was ethnically-based. Neither the rules on membership nor the policy objectives defined the party as ethnic, he said.
He said that by the logic of the judge, other parties could be defined as ethnic because one ethnicity predominated in their membership.
The Sofia City Court’s decision was welcomed by the nationalist Patriotic Front coalition, which supports Borissov’s government in Parliament. PF co-leader Krassimir Karakachanov said that it was “obvious to everyone” that Mestan’s party was a political project “probably created by a country neighbouring us”.
MRF MP Yanko Yankov said that the matter was a case for the courts. “The court takes decisions on the basis of the country’s laws and constitution”.
MP Zhelyu Boichev, spokesperson for the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, said that his party did not interfere in the work of court.