Bulgarian Socialist Party MP Georgi Kadiev narrowly escaped being expelled from the party’s parliamentary group, by just two votes, after angering BSP bosses by tabling legislation that proposes allowing election canvassing in languages other than Bulgarian.
The secret ballot by the BSP parliamentary group on June 10 followed a party statement eight days earlier distancing the group from Kadiev’s proposal.
The BSP parliamentary group, the second-largest group in the 240-seat National Assembly and the largest opposition party, numbers 39 and a two-thirds majority of this would have been required to expel Kadiev. Twenty-four voted in favour of expulsion and 14 against, with one BSP away on business.
Advocating allowing election campaigning in a language other than Bulgarian has long been a vexed issue.
The only significant party that has been in favour is the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), the party led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of Turkish descent.
The MRF, a number of whose members – including party leader Lyutvi Mestan – have been penalised for campaigning in Turkish, has made failed attempts to change the law and has said that it would approach “European institutions” over what it describes as unfair discrimination on the language issue.
Kadiev’s bill would allow campaigning in a foreign language provided that it was accompanied by “precise and simultaneous translation into Bulgarian”.
The June 2 parliamentary group vote on whether to support Kadiev’s bill saw 30 votes against and one vote in favour – that of Kadiev.
The BSP had given Kadiev until June 10 to withdraw the bill, but he was adamant about pushing ahead with it, saying “I am convinced that in 10 years, we will wonder why we argued about this, as we now wonder how slavery could be supported, how black and white had to travel in different coaches, how women were not allowed into university”.
Given the previous opposition of most major parties to allowing mother-tongue electioneering, Kadiev’s bill has scant chance of success.
Kadiev has regularly been at odds with the leadership of his party, although he was its choice as the BSP Sofia mayoral candidate in 2009, a bid in which he failed.
He was among candidates who made a failed attempt to be elected BSP leader in July 2014, after the resignation of Sergei Stanishev as party leader.
In the most recent parliamentary election, in October 2014, Kadiev was handed what was seen as an unelectable ninth place in a Sofia voting district. However, preferential voting enabled him to be returned to Parliament.