Bulgaria summons Turkish ambassador over ‘interference’ in its elections

Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry summoned Turkish ambassador Aylin Sekizkök to urge her country’s institutions not to interfere in its elections, the ministry said on November 18.

The meeting came three days before Bulgaria holds a second round of presidential elections, following the first round and early parliamentary elections on November 14, and on the day that caretaker Interior Minister Boiko Rashkov alleged that Turkey was interfering in Bulgaria’s elections.

The Foreign Ministry said that the ministry’s permanent secretary, Ivan Kondov, had “expressed the expectation that Turkish institutions and officials will categorically refrain from propaganda actions and political messages” regarding the November 21 run-off in the presidential elections.

Rashkov had cited the actions of representative bodies in Turkey and articles in the Turkish media, saying that he saw these as interference in Bulgaria’s domestic affairs.

Sunday’s run-off is between incumbent President Roumen Radev, backed by a range of parties, and Anastas Gerdzhikov, the latter backed by Boiko Borissov’s GERB-UDF electoral coalition.

A major player in Bulgarian politics, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), which has a significant support base among Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity and an electoral stronghold in Turkey, has not endorsed either of these presidential candidates by name.

On November 17, MRF leader Mustafa Karadayi said that the party’s leadership was leaving it up to the MRF electorate, whom he described as wise, to decide which candidate to support.

At the same time, the profile of the candidate who should be supported, as described by Karadayi, largely matched the campaign messaging of Gerdzhikov, who has sought to portray himself as a unifier and Radev as someone who has brought division to the nation.

Bulgarian media pointed out that the MRF in Istanbul, on its Facebook page, had posted a Turkish-language appeal to vote for the Gerdzhikov presidential ticket. By November 18, that post had been taken down.

There have been months of public displays of tensions between the MRF and Radev.

These have included, in September, Karadayi accusing Radev of seeking to transform Bulgaria from a parliamentary into a presidential republic.

There also have been clashes over the work of the caretaker government appointed by Radev, in particular Rashkov, whose actions against vote-buying have been characterised by the MRF as attempts to repress and intimidate its electorate.

Radev and the caretaker cabinet have attacked the MRF because of Delyan Peevski, who was sanctioned by the United States under the Magnitsky Act for “significant corruption”.

In the course of consultations with parties after Bulgaria’s July elections, Radev challenged Karadayi – in remarks shown live – to say which country was his motherland. Radev was referring to reports that Karadayi, visiting Turkey, had described that country as his motherland. Karadayi, appearing annoyed, replied to Radev that Bulgaria was his motherland.

(Photo: Foreign Ministry)

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