Bulgarian President Roumen Radev has responded to a call by his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the country to hold fair and transparent elections on March 26 by saying that Bulgaria does not give or accept lessons on democracy.
In the latest sniping between Ankara and Sofia ahead of Bulgaria’s parliamentary elections, Erdoğan accused Bulgaria of putting pressure on ethnic Turks in regard to the vote.
“You [Bulgaria] speak of democracy but also put pressure on the Turks living there; it is incredible,” Erdoğan said, quoted by the Anadolu agency on March 23.
Bulgarian caretaker government officials and politicians in the election contest have accused Turkey of intervention in Bulgaria’s internal affairs. There has been a succession of reports of Turkish officials seeking to help DOST, Lyutvi Mestan’s party that is a breakaway from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.
Radev, who commented while attending the Greek national day reception at a luxury hotel in Sofia, said: “I’m here to respect the national holiday, of our neighbour, partner and friend Greece – the homeland of democracy.
“Bulgaria does not give, nor does it accepts lessons on democracy. Especially from countries that do not respect the rule of law,” Radev said.
“And something important – every statesman must learn the lessons of history and geography. I want to assure you that the elections will proceed peacefully. Bulgaria is a European country that is led by its laws, not by foreign emotions.”
Erdoğan, in his statements on March 23, rejected allegations that his country was interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.
Turkey has always respected the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries, Erdoğan said at the same time urging Bulgaria to provide all the conditions for the holding of fair and transparent elections on March 26 to allow all its citizens to exercise their vote in an atmosphere of calm and security.
“On Sunday, March 26 parliamentary elections will be held in Bulgaria, but we learn that there are attempts to prevent our compatriots, our brothers of Turkish origin with Bulgarian passports, to exercise their free and democratic right to vote. They make attempts to put pressure on them. This has very deeply disturbed us,” Erdoğan said.
“Can we accept such a thing as normal? On the one hand, Bulgaria claims to defend European values as a European country, but on the other hand – will put pressure on people of Turkish origin in order not to vote according to their preferences,” he said.
Bulgarian leaders including Radev have underlined that Bulgaria values good relations with Turkey but, in the words of Radev, sees interference in Bulgarian domestic affairs as “unacceptable”.
There have been numerous media reports of an increased number of buses bringing Bulgarian passport-holders across the border from Turkey to vote in Sunday’s National Assembly elections.
A nationalist electoral grouping, the United Patriots, earlier this week blocked three border checkpoints with Turkey for some hours and have said that they would so the same again to prevent “electoral tourism” before and on March 26.
Other political parties have called for a range of measures, including abandoning plans for 35 polling stations in Turkey other than in diplomatic and consular missions.