Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan held talks in Ankara with Lyutvi Mestan, leader of Bulgaria’s Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), according to a brief statement by the Turkish presidency website.
The MRF is led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity. The party, however, rejects the label of being a “Turkish ethnic” party.
The September 12 talks, held at the Çankaya Presidential Palace, were notable as a sign of a warming of relations between Erdogan and the MRF, Bulgarian news agency BTA said.
Until recently, Erdogan mainly maintained ties with Kasim Dal and Korman Ismailov, founder of the People’s Party Freedom and Dignity, a breakaway from the MRF, who were frequent visitors to Ankara.
Mestan was quoted as saying that the MRF was “the most important bridge of friendship between Bulgaria and Turkey”.
The meeting was attended by Turkey’s ambassador to Bulgaria, Süleyman Gökçe.
Bulgarian media said that Mestan reiterated his party’s objection to Bulgarian election legislation that forbids canvassing and campaigning in any language other than Bulgarian.
Mestan said that his party had tried to get this law changed but had got no support from other parties.
Bulgaria had been a member of the EU since 2007 and this law was a violation of the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens, according to Mestan.
Bulgaria goes to the polls in early national parliamentary elections on October 5.
The MRF is seen by the more reliable polls as headed for third place.
The party has been in several governing coalitions in Bulgaria’s post-Zhivkov area, notably recently in the 2005/09 Bulgarian Socialist Party-led tripartite coalition and in the May 2013/August 2014 ruling axis that left office after massively-supported public protests and the thrashing dealt out to the BSP in Bulgaria’s May 2014 European Parliament elections.
Meanwhile, on September 14, Bulgaria’s far-right ultra-nationalist Patriotic Front coalition was to hold a protest outside the Sofia headquarters of the Central Election Commission against the number of polling stations that will be open in Turkey on October 5.
There will be about 150 polling stations in Turkey, the largest number in any country outside Bulgaria on the day of the vote.
The Patriotic Front alleged that in previous elections, voting in Bulgarian elections in Turkey always had been manipulated because of a lack of control on the part of Bulgarian institutions.
(Photos: Turkish Presidency website)