Lyutvi Mestan, the ousted former leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, said on February 9 he was founding a new party to be called the Democrats for Responsibility, Freedom and Tolerance.
Mestan said in a television interview that the party would be a “liberal Euro-Atlantic project”.
The former MRF leader said that it was “wonderful” that the Bulgarian abbreviation for the name of the new party ( ДОСТ) – “dost” was a Turkish word for “friend”.
Mestan earlier insisted that speculation that he would be founding a new “Turkish party” in Bulgaria was unfounded. The MRF is commonly referred to as “Bulgaria’s Turkish party” because since its founding, it has been led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity.
MRF founder and honorary president Ahmed Dogan had Mestan expelled as leader of the MRF and from all party positions and membership after Mestan read out a declaration in Parliament in 2015 taking the side of Ankara following Turkey’s downing of a Russian air force bomber near Syrian air space.
Mestan now sits as an independent in the National Assembly, accompanied by five MPs loyal to him who quit the MRF. This is too few to form an officially-recognised parliamentary group.
Mestan said that he was creating the new party, not as a response to the attacks on him and his colleagues, but because “Bulgaria needs a liberal political entity”.
“We want to give an alternative to the real brave and decent people to vote for a real liberal party,” Mestan said, adding that the MRF could not be described as such.
He said that Dogan’s speech in late 2015, which described Mestan’s stance on the Turkey-Russia dispute as a “gaffe”, had “taken off the mask”. The MRF described itself as pro-Nato but had touted Russian power, Mestan said.
Mestan said that the attacks against him had transgressed “all political, moral and human boundaries”, adding that his family and children had not been spared either.
He said that he had gone around the country and had found a “critical mass” of voters who did not share Dogan’s views and did not feel that they were represented by the MRF.
(Mestan in an election ad, while leader of MRF.)