Bulgaria: War in the Movement for Rights and Freedoms – Peevski scorns Dogan’s call to resign

The civil war in Bulgarian political party the Movement for Rights and Freedoms blazed into naked conflict on the night of July 10 as the party’s co-leader, controversial figure Delyan Peevski, furiously rejected a call from MRF grandee Ahmed Dogan for him to step down from his post.

The public clash between Dogan, the founder and honorary life president of the MRF, and Peevski, who has embarked on what some have described as a hostile corporate takeover of the party, followed a drama in which the party’s parliamentary group contradicted each other in their votes on July 3 on the government proposed by Boiko Borissov’s GERB-UDF.

Of the MRF parliamentary group, some followed Peevski’s bidding in voting for GERB-UDF Prime Minister-designate Rossen Zhelyazkov while the rest followed the injunction by Dogan to vote against.

The wider context has been the months of internal tensions between Peevski and Dogan and their respective factions, wrestling for control of a party conceived in the turbulent times of Bulgaria’s post-communist transition by Dogan, long since exposed as having been a collaborator with the country’s communist-era secret service State Security. Dogan is grappling with Peevski, the subject of sanctions by the US and the UK over his involvement in large-scale corruption in Bulgaria, charges that Peevski denies.

Peevski is co-leader of the MRF, a post he shares with Dogan loyalist Dzhevdet Chakurov, but alone has wrested for himself the sole post of the MRF’s parliamentary leader.

That move has exacerbated tensions in the MRF, currently at the centre of Bulgaria’s political crisis after the June 9 early parliamentary elections.

As the second-largest parliamentary group, the MRF is entitled to be next to receive a mandate to seek to form a government.

Apart from its own internal tensions about how to deal with that issue, all the parliamentary groups that the MRF has approached on the issue have rejected its overtures. Every other parliamentary group has been at pains to portray the MRF as a political polecat.

Responding on July 10 for Dogan’s call for him and his allies to resign from their posts, Peevski said: “I will not give up and I will not betray the people who have given me their trust! I am not a traitor! No one can stop the New Beginning!” This was a response to Dogan’s statement on July 10.

Peevski said that the move against him was “remniscencent of bygone times, in which groups of people, structures and persons were erased ‘from above’ with one phone or one fax”.

“Is this the apotheosis of the struggle for democracy, rights and legality or an authoritarian approach incompatible with the rule of law?” Peevski said.

“Unfortunately, this is becoming a living example that Europe and the democratic world will look at, to say the least, with bewilderment. The assessments that have been given are untenable, and the demand for resignations – devoid of any form of implementation of the statute of MRF, about which there is so much talk these days.”

Peevski’s reference to the “statute of MRF, about which there is so much talk these days” was a direct reference to the camp of Dogan and Dogan’s loyalists saying that Peevski’s attempted sole grasp of power over the MRF parliamentary group was illegitimate. Another key, if implausible, theme in the public statements by MRF figures in recent days, including by Peevski, is that the party is not divided.

“And who will bear the responsibility before those who have voted us this trust, and entrusted to us the hopes of their own lives!?” Peevski said.

“Or they are again asked to be silent and submit to the superstition that has used them for so long. This is unacceptable and impossible. And no, I will not give up and I will not betray the people who gave me their trust”.

The now-public grappling between the Dogan and Peevski factions has exacerbated the political doldrums in which Bulgaria has been stranded after the country’s – latest – early parliamentary elections on June 9.

President Roumen Radev, as head of state awaiting clarity on the matter of when to hand over the second mandate to seek to form a government – to which the MRF, as the second-largest parliamentary group, is entitled by the constitution – has not yet said when he intends to do so.

Like all other observers, Radev apparently is awaiting the outcome of the battle between Peevski and Dogan over control of the MRF and the next steps the party will take.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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