Bulgaria Denies Registration to DOST Party over 'Ethnic' Nature
A Bulgarian court has declined to register DOST, the party of Lyutvi Mestan who was expelled from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) in December.
DOST, an acronym that stands for "Democrats for Unity, Solidarity and Tolerance", is spelled and sounds like a word for "friend" in Turkish.
It is precisely the Turkish meaning which leads Judge Liliya Ilieva to suggest the party might have an ethnic basis, the court ruling, published on the Sofia City Court's website, shows.
The judge found that "the applicant consciously wished that the abbreviation of the name of his political party should form precisely this word. His motive is probably that there are many words of foreign origin in Bulgarian and the use of a foreign word will not be perceived as a violation of laws. Or at least not of their letter."
"But apart from letter, laws also have a spirit... It is precisely through its abbreviation that the party promotes itself. For instance, at a rally where the abbreviation is chanted many times by its supporters, it will be a public event in a foreign language as the emotional charge will be expressed through a foreign words - a Turkish word."
Bulgaria's constitution (Article 11/4) bans the formation of parties "on an ethnic, racial, or religious basis". Separately, the use of any language other than Bulgarian is forbidden in public events, including election campaigning.
Sofia City Court court also sees a problem int he fact that many of those citizens whose names are entered as DOST members are of ethnic Turkish origin.
"DOST's statute does not contain even a hint that it will be a party on an ethnic, racial or confessional basis, but judging from the tinkering with the abbreviation, the party will act, if not on a confessional or racial, at least on an ethnic basis," the court has also found.
Sofia City Court's decision can be appealed.
DOST has described the development as "bad news... for Bulgaria, for the democratic and Euro-Atlantic image of our country," according to BGNES wire service. It has also voiced its intention to appeal as early as Monday.
Mestan has yet to comment in person.
He was dismissed as the DPS's leader and ousted from the party in December after coming under fire from the party's honorary chair, Ahmed Dogan, over his move to side with Turkey in the spat that began with Russia over the downed Su-24 fighter-bomber.
The DPS, a party whose leadership and electorate are made predominantly of ethnic Turks, alleges DOST has pro-Islamic roots, while political analysts have seen it as a potential rival for the votes of expats in Turkey.
Mestan for his part blames the DPS (whose leader he was for nearly three years) for siding with Russia and being detrimental to the country's Euro-Atlantic development.
After a delay in the ruling (he submitted the registration documents back in April) he said in June that "Eurasian forces" had been pressuring the court into a refusal.
He also maintained Judge Ilieva had ties to the DPS and the biggest opposition party, BSP.
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