The Central Election Commission has ordered an end to the distribution of a book distributed free with a newspaper, directed against former justice minister Hristo Ivanov’s Yes Bulgaria coalition and Radan Kanev’s New Republic coalition.
The decision was made on the evening of March 15, eleven days before Bulgaria’s early parliamentary elections.
Entitled “Thieves of Democracy. They plundered Bulgaria”, the book was distributed to a national readership along with Telegraf, a daily publication owned by Delyan Peevski, the media mogul and candidate to return to the National Assembly on the ticket of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.
The CEC, responding to complaints lodged against the book by Yes Bulgaria and by New Republic, said that the book violated a provision of the Electoral Code that forbids the use of materials that violate the decency, honour and reputation of candidate MPs.
The commission found that the material “directly affects the names of candidate MPs in a way that is unacceptable in terms of the election campaign”. During the election campaign, defamatory material cannot be distributed in any form, the CEC said.
The CEC noted that evidence attached to the complaint showed that the sole shareholder in the company issuing the book was HCH Investment Ltd, whose sole shareholder is Intrust Ltd, a foreign legal entity in which Peevski has a 100 per cent stake.
However, the commission said that ownership of capital was irrelevant to the question of whether a publication violated the rules for conducting the election campaign.
“The file contains no evidence that Delyan Slavchev Peevski, as a candidate MP, has committed a breach of the provisions of the Electoral Code,” the commission said.
The CEC said that the liability for the infringement lay with the manager of Telegraf Ltd.
The commission, as the law prescribes, has referred the matter to the Regional Governor of Sofia, to penalise the publication. The CEC decision is subject to appeal in the Supreme Administrative Court.
Meanwhile, Yes Bulgaria candidate MP Antoaneta Tsoneva has won a defamation action against National History Museum director Bozhidar Dimitrov at first instance.
Tsoneva lodged court action against Dimitrov – formerly with the Bulgarian Socialist Party and for some time a minister in GERB leader Boiko Borissov’s first cabinet before he stepped down in December 2010 amid controversy over his State Security past – after he said in July 2016 that she had organised and participated in “paid protests”.
Dimitrov was referring to the protests that continued for months against the “Oresharski” cabinet following the June 2013 short-lived appointment of Peevski as head of the State Agency for National Security. Tsoneva was a prominent member of the Protest Network that emerged in those months.
It was common practice for the opponents of the anti-government protests of 2013/14 to allege that participants were paid, an allegation for which there is no evidence.
Tsoneva won damages of the symbolic sum of one lev (about 50 euro cents). The ruling is subject to appeal in the Sofia City Court.
(Main photo: New Republic leader Radan Kanev and Yes Bulgaria leader Hristo Ivanov)