Bulgaria’s Central Election Commission (CEC) has banned the showing of an election campaign video by Lyutvi Mestan’s DOST party because it has sub-titles in Turkish, a breach of electoral law that allows campaigning solely in Bulgarian.
The CEC ruling follows one a few days earlier banning the showing of a video because the first frame showed Turkish ambassador in Sofia, Süleyman Gökçe. The Turkish envoy has been at the centre of controversy over Ankara’s role in Bulgaria’s March 26 2017 elections, and has been summoned to the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry over the issue.
The ruling on the video with the Turkish sub-titles was taken at the initiative of the CEC. The commission was responding to the posting on DOST’s website on two identical videos, one with the sub-titles.
The issue of canvassing in Turkish has been a repeated one in successive Bulgarian elections. The Movement for Rights and Freedoms, including when it was led by Mestan, has been on the receiving end of complaints and penalties over the years about this.
Attempts in previous parliaments by the MRF to get the law limiting canvassing to Bulgarian have failed in the face of opposition by all other parties.
DOST, like the MRF, has an electorate historically made up largely of Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity. The current difference between the two parties is that Mestan’s party apparently has the backing of Turkey, whose side he took in late 2015 in an episode that led to his ousting from the leadership of the MRF and all other party positions.
The ban on the Turkish sub-titled video applies to all media and the internet, the CEC said.
“The upcoming snap elections for deputies of March 26 2017 is an important event of national importance and any external interference or suggestions arising from the participation of officials of foreign countries are unacceptable,” the commission said.