Bulgaria’s Parliament adopted a resolution recognising the 1915 “mass killing” of Armenians, refraining from using the term “genocide” after the intervention of the centre-right majority partner in government.
Adoption of the resolution on April 24 2015, the day marked by those who recognise the Armenian Genocide as such as its official commemoration, saw further acrimony in Bulgaria’s National Assembly over the issue.
Far-right ultra-nationalist minority party Ataka initially had tabled the resolution using the term “Armenian Genocide”, seeking parliamentary endorsement as it has done eight times through a succession of parliaments since 2006.
Ataka had been irked when, on April 23, two sets of legislative amendments, tabled respectively by MPs for the centre-right majority partner in government GERB and by its centre-right coalition partner the Reformist Bloc, had been moved up on the agenda for the Friday sitting. The move was seen as dislodging chances that there would be time on April 24 for the “Armenian Genocide” resolution to be debated and voted on.
Skirmishes on the issue resumed at the start of the Friday sitting when, amid acrimonious exchanges in the House, Ataka succeeded in getting the draft resolution shifted back to being the first item of business.
This was achieved with the support of the Patriotic Front, a rival nationalist party that supports the governing coalition in Parliament, and that of the Reformist Bloc.
The return of the issue to Parliament’s agenda led to an impromptu appearance by Prime Minister and GERB leader Boiko Borissov, who was due to leave for Romania for a joint sitting of the Bulgarian and Romanian cabinets.
Borissov insisted on replacing the word “genocide” with “mass killing”. Speaking to reporters, he called for a clear distinction to be made between the Ottoman empire and latter-day Turkey, adding that the “indisputable fact that people were killed would be acknowledged by the Turkish government”.
Earlier, when the Armenian Genocide resolution appeared set not to reach the floor of the House, Ataka had accused other parties of being in thrall to the embassy of Turkey and to the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF).
The MRF, the third-largest party in the National Assembly and part of the opposition. is led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity.
Amid the struggles in the House over restoring the item to the top of the agenda, and a bid by the Patriotic Front for MPs to hold a minute of silence for the victims of the Armenian Genocide – a move ruled procedurally out of order but which prompted many MPs to take to their feet – Ataka MP Dessislav Chukulov said, “we must not remain silent. We have to talk about one of the biggest genocides of the 20th century.
“We all have Armenian friends,” Chukulov said, noting that GERB MPs had abstained on rearranging the agenda of the day. “Do not think about Kim Kardashian (an American whose father is of Armenian descent) when you vote, think about our Armenian friends”.
Ataka was further irked by the amendment referring to “mass killings” instead of “genocide”.
MRF leader Lyutvi Mestan made a number of attempts to block the resolution, at one point proposing an amendment to refer instead to “all victims of political upheaval”.
The resolution, as amended to refer to “mass killings”, was supported by MPs from all parties except the MRF. A minute of silence after the vote saw MRF MPs walk out of the National Assembly.