Shock and dismay as Bulgaria’s Dogan attacked – reactions

The attack on Ahmed Dogan, leader of Bulgaria’s predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) party, during a party conference on January 19 drew immediate condemnation from most corners of Bulgaria’s political scene.

President Rossen Plevneliev said that he condemned “any attack on the life or health of any Bulgarian citizen” and called on law enforcement agencies to speedily investigate the incident. He said he had talked to Dogan and conveyed his wishes for a speedy recovery.

“Such an act is unacceptable in a democratic country. Bulgarian society is traditionally known for its tolerance, the mutual acceptance and respect between different ethnicities and religions. This is why, in the name of all Bulgarians, I want to convey the outrage caused by this act of violence.”

The parliamentary group of Bulgaria’s ruling party GERB, said in a statement: “Such actions are absolutely unacceptable and anti-democratic, especially during a political forum […] GERB does not accept any form of violence, not only against a member of Parliament, but against any Bulgarian citizen. For us, the attack against any politician is a threat to democracy in our country.”

The main opposition party, Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), said: “The attack against MRF leader Ahmed Dogan is extremely grave with grave consequences for Bulgaria and Bulgarian political life. The assassination attempt is shocking […] Hatred that has been long fanned, aggression against a political opponent and hostility have yielded ugly results. We should all stand against these decisively and unyieldingly. Political speculation is unacceptable.”

Socialist MP Anton Koutev, known for his controversial statements in the past, initially said that the incident was “staged”, but later clarified that he meant it was “carefully prepared”.

Former socialist interior minister Roumen Petkov said that the incident “speaks loudly about the society that we live in” and that it was unlikely that the incident could have been prepared by a solitary assailant.

Ultra-nationalist leader Volen Siderov, whose political career has been built on attacks on MRF and Dogan, went further, implying that the incident was staged in order to boost cohesion in the ranks of the party.

Siderov said that his party demanded an immediate investigation of the National Protection Service, the resignation of its director and the dissolution of the service. “Why did this service act so unprofessionally? One possible answer is that we saw complete and utter incompetence; the alternative is that the National Protection Service was an accomplice in this staged incident,” he said.

Order, Law and Justice party, whose leader Yane Yanev has also clashed with Dogan in the past, echoed Siderov’s words in its own statement. “Because the convenient enemy, Ataka, is no longer an irritant and is at a low point, MRF will use this farce to boost cohesion in its ranks ahead of the elections,” the party said.

Other minor political parties took a general stance to condemn the attack.

Centre-right Union of Democratic Forces said that it “condemned every attempt on the life of any person. Violence, regardless of the reasons and in any form, is unacceptable and unjustified.” At the same time, the incident could be used to “escalate ethnic, social and political tension”, the party said.

Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria MP Atanas Atanassov described the attack as “a grave political provocation”.

Among MRF officials, Dogan’s deputy of many years Lyutvi Mestan – whom Dogan was set to anoint as his successor at the helm of the party – said that “we do not know who physically ordered the assassination attempt, but the real one is the language of hate and confrontation, the aggression against MRF in the Bulgarian society.”

Kassim Dal, once one of Dogan’s top lieutenants who was excluded from the party for clashing with Dogan, said: “We live in the 21st century and such things should not happen. I wish to dissociate from such actions.”

Graham Watson, president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE), who was in attendance at the MRF conference, said: “Liberals have become increasingly concerned about freedom and the rule of law under Prime Minister Boiko Borissov. The European Union may need to mobilise to put the country back on track.”

(Screengrab of assailant pointing gas gun at MRF leader Ahmed Dogan via Bulgarian National Television)



Alex Bivol

Alex Bivol is the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe.