Proposal for Bulgarian Parliament to probe claims of Russian and Turkish interference in domestic politics

MPs from several political parties have signed a petition by the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) calling for the establishment of a parliamentay ad hoc committee to investigate allegations of interference by Russia and Turkey in the domestic politics of Bulgaria.

The MRF submitted the proposal, signed by 72 MPs, to the National Assembly’s secretariat on February 17.

Signatories included MPs from Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s centre-right GERB party, the largest in Parliament, the nationalist Patriotic Front, the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party and minority party Bulgarian Democratic Centre, according to MRF parliamentary group co-leader Chetin Kazak.

No MP from the Reformist Bloc, minority socialist breakaway party ABC or Ataka had signed the petition, according to Kazak.

The MRF was itself the subject of comment in recent months about a proxy war for control of the party between Russia and Turkey.

In late December 2015, Lyutvi Mestan was deposed as leader of the party by a special executive council meeting initiated by honorary president Ahmed Dogan after Mestan, in a statement in Parliament, took the side of Ankara in its dispute with Moscow over Turkey’s downing of a Russian military bomber near Syrian airspace. Mestan, expelled from the MRF but who has remained an MP, has formed his own party.

Recently, it emerged that Turkey had declared as persona non grata Dogan and controversial business person and MRF MP Delyan Peevski.

Political observers have described what happened to Mestan as a blow in favour of Russian interests, and the move against the MRF establishment as a tit-for-tat rejoinder by Turkey.

Turkey’s ambassador was summoned by the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry in late 2015 to caution him not to behave in such a way that fuelled public perceptions of interference in domestic affairs. Nationalist politicians have called for his expulsion as well as that of other Turkish diplomats.

After the Mestan episode, Prime Minister Borissov said that Turkey’s president and prime minister had sought to pressure him to take the side of the former MRF leader.

Elsewhere in the political spectrum, there are other parties that lean towards favourable relations with Russia, such as the BSP and Ataka, the latter one of Parliament’s two smallest parties.

It is envisaged that the ad hoc committee will have a two-month term of office and to have 16 MPs on a proportional basis from all parliamentary groups, with no independent MPs as members.

Kazak said that the committee would request information from the Interior Ministry, Foreign Ministry and security and intelligence services. The idea was to investigate whether there was substance to investigate whether there was substance to allegations about interference by Russia and Turkey.

Radan Kanev, leader of the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria – a constituent party of the Reformist Bloc but which individually is in opposition – called on February 15 for an investigation into whether Dogan and Peevski had connections to Russia and whether Mestan had connections to Turkey.

Kazak said that he was aware of Kanev’s call, but said that the proposal for the committee was the best option.

An explanatory memorandum on the request for the committee said that there had been reports of pressure on Bulgarian politicians, party activists and representatives of local authorities regarding the activities and decisions of Bulgarian political parties.

In parallel, there had been persistently spread allegations that certain Bulgarian political parties were in the service of Russia. “These statements are rightly of concern among Bulgarian society and pose serious issues related to national security, sovereignty and independence of the domestic policy of the Republic of Bulgaria,” the memorandum said.

(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)



The Sofia Globe staff

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