Volen Siderov, leader of the ultra-nationalist Ataka party and a Sofia mayoral candidate, violated election law by his behaviour on public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television’s Referendum programme, the Central Election Commission (CEC) said on October 2.
Siderov is to be penalised, the CEC said in an official decision posted on its website, responding to a complaint lodged by the Council for Electronic Media, the statutory broadcast regulatory body headed by Sofia Vladimirova, as well as by a political party and by BNT.
The behaviour of Siderov dominated headlines in Bulgaria on October 2. Participating in the BNT Referendum talk show, he vastly exceeded his allotted speaking time, and levelled abuse at participants from other political parties and the show’s host.
Siderov’s microphone was switched off long after he exceeded his speaking time. Two gendarmerie officers appeared on the studio floor, standing close to the Ataka leader, who by Bulgarian law is exempt from police intervention because of his constitutional immunity as a member of the National Assembly.
The CEC said that it had received complaints from CEM head Vladimirova and from Angel Dzambazki, the MEP who is the Sofia mayoral candidate of another nationalist party, VMRO, as well as a complaint from BNT.
The CEC found that Siderov had used obscene language against other participants in the debate and towards the presenter.
It found that Siderov had verbally attacked Yulian Angelov of VMRO, Dzhambazki, and VMRO leader Krassimir Karakachanov.
Siderov had referred to Dzhambazki as “gay” and a “gay parade leader”, had addressed the presenter in colloquial Bulgarian language specifically impolite when speaking to a woman, and had alleged that Karakachanov had “stolen a billion leva from the Bulgarian people and given it to the US,” the last-mentioned an apparent reference to the F-16 acquisition deal by the government of Bulgaria, in which Karakachanov is Defence Minister.
By his indecent behaviour and attacks on participants in the debate, Siderov had violated Bulgaria’s electoral law, which requires representatives of parties, coalitions and initiative committees to not defame candidates’ morality, honour and good standing, the CEC said.
The commission found that Siderov had violated the rules for such broadcasts, and this, with his refusal to quit the studio in spite of requests by the presenter to do so because of his behaviour, had prevented objective and fair coverage of the candidates.
BNT has announced that for the rest of Bulgaria’s autumn 2019 municipal and mayoral election campaign, it is barring Siderov from its election broadcasts. Siderov has said that he will take court action against BNT, alleging breach of contract for election coverage of his campaign.