Candidate MPs from the far-right ultra-nationalist Bulgarian National Union-New Democracy party “occupied” the Sofia headquarters of the Central Election Commission (CEC) on September 24 in protest against a commission ban of a campaign video by the party.
Acting on a report by the Council for Electronic Media, the CEC said that it had banned the video because it images include a child with the Bulgarian national flag in her hands.
The use of children in election campaigning is banned under Bulgarian law, including the Child Protection Act. The CEC banned the video from being shown on television or being posted on the internet.
Reports from the CEC office said that more than 20 members of the party entered the building and occupied the boardroom and one of the offices.
The party, headed by ultra-nationalist Boyan Rasate, has a platform based on “Bulgaria for the Bulgarians” with its Facebook page littered with messages against immigrants, refugees and ownership of Bulgarian land by foreigners.
A particular bugbear for the party, going by its Facebook page, is human rights organisation the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee.
Rasate was in the headlines in late 2013 when he was involved in “civil patrols” in Sofia against refugees.
Speaking to reporters at the CEC building, Rasate said that the CEC was imposing “double standards” because it had banned the party’s video while allowing “more controversial” videos by the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (a party led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity).
He said that he wanted to meet CEC leadership to get the ban of the party’s video reversed.
The party said that the CEC had interpreted the law wrongly “as in the shots in which it participates it is apparent that the child is not participating in a political event and has no contact with party materials, characters and campaign material, but is only running in a meadow with a Bulgarian flag”.
The MRF video included images of MRF leader Lyutvi Mestan hugging and kissing a toddler and of children with flags and balloons at an MRF rally, Rasate’s party said.
The BNU-ND video was still on the party’s website on September 24, in spite of the CEC ruling, its images also including archive photos of clashes between protesters and police from early 2013 and with Rasate ranting about a supposed “genocide” of Bulgarians.
In response to the “occupation”, there was a large deployment of police at CEC headquarters, who barred the media from access to the building, reporters said.
In a subsequent statement, the CEC said that the National Security Service had “localised” the group that invaded the building and had removed them, and were in the process of conducting identity checks on the group.