Bulgaria’s 2017 elections: Reports received of voters being bussed in from Turkey – Deputy PM

Bulgaria’s caretaker government has received reports of buses being organised to bring voters in from Turkey for the March 26 parliamentary elections, Stefan Yanev, the deputy prime minister in charge of the government’s role in election preparations, said.

It was difficult to say who was organising this, Yanev said in a March 22 television interview.

He was speaking a day after Bulgarian nationalist coalition the United Patriots spent some hours blocking border checkpoints with Turkey, to prevent the entry of buses carrying voters likely to support the Movement for Rights and Freedoms or Lyutvi Mestan’s DOST. The nationalists have vowed to repeat these blockades.

Media reports have shown places in Turkey where bus rides to Bulgaria are on offer for free, ahead of Bulgaria’s elections.

Yanev said that even if there was a sponsored campaign to bring voters in, it was easy to conceal who was really behind it.

Warnings and penalties had been issued to parties for breaching electoral law, including for campaigning in a foreign language, he said.

As to relations between Bulgaria and Turkey, Yanev said that while striving to maintain good relations, diplomatic instruments were used to respond to moves that would qualify as an attempt to interfere in Bulgaria’s internal affairs.

The summoning to Sofia of Bulgaria’s ambassador to Turkey, Nadezhda Neynsky, was such a move, he said. So was the summoning to the Foreign Ministry of the Turkish ambassador.

The campaigning for a Bulgarian political party by a Turkish cabinet minister also could be seen as interference in Bulgaria’s internal affairs, he said.

Yanev did not want to go into detail about the three Turkish citizens expelled from Bulgaria last week, but said that they had lobbied and had “done things in the context of a violation of state interests.”

Increased traffic was expected at the Turkish border but Yanev did not expect tensions beyond it being more difficult to cross the border.

He saw the statements by those involved in the protests at the border as more significant.

“These protests are led by politicians who are candidates for parliament and with this kind of action they violate the law. We do not expect provocations, we accept protests as part of the election game and the expression of the attitudes of a group of people,” he said.

In a separate television interview, caretaker Foreign Minister Radi Naidenov said that the Turkish ambassador’s campaigning for a political party was intervention in Bulgaria’s internal affairs.

As to the Turkish ambassador appearing in the video of a political party (DOST), Naidenov said that a person could be filmed in many places and this can be interpreted in many different ways.

“Closing the border does not solve the problem. What is important is security. We have no interest in creating tensions between the two countries. We are neighbours and must rely on good relations,” Naidenov said, regarding the March 21 border blockade.

Asked if Russia was interfering in Bulgaria’s internal affairs, Naidenov said that he had no evidence of such interference.

“A diplomat draws on facts and I do not have any,” he said.

(Photo: Michal Zacharzewski/sxc.hu)




The Sofia Globe staff

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