Movement for Rights and Freedoms

Movement for Rights and Freedoms
Bulgarian: Движение за права и свободи
Turkish: Hak ve Özgürlükler Hareketi
President Mustafa Karadaya
Honorary President Ahmed Dogan
Founded January 4, 1990 (1990-01-04)
Headquarters Sofia
Membership Decrease 66,000 in 2015 (3rd)[1]
Ideology Centrism[2]
Social liberalism[5]
Turkish minority interests[2]
Political position Centre to Centre-left
European affiliation Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
International affiliation Liberal International
European Parliament group Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Colours Blue
National Assembly
30 / 240
European Parliament
4 / 17
Ahmed Dogan (left) at the foundation conference

The Movement for Rights and Freedoms (Bulgarian: Движение за права и свободи (ДПС), Dvizhenie za prava i svobodi (DPS); Turkish: Hak ve Özgürlükler Hareketi (HÖH)) is a centrist political party in Bulgaria. It is a member of the Liberal International and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party, and is a liberal party, whose main goal are the interests of the Muslims, especially Turks. However, its principal electorate are also the Pomaks (Muslim Bulgarians) and the party relies on the biggest share of all the Romani voters, nevertheless 9 out of its 36 deputies are not of Muslim background.[6] At the Bulgarian parliamentary election, 2014 3% of Bulgarian voters, 83% of Turkish voters and 44% of Romani voters voted for the movement, a record high share of Romani voters.[7] The party won in completely Christian Romani villages and thus was alleged for trading with their vote.[8]

The party was officially established in 1990, but the official website of the party traces the roots of the foundation to 1983 when an illegal terrorist group Turkish National Freedom Movement was established, which committed over 50 fire-raisings, bomb attempts and murders on regular citizens until 1989 as a rebellion against the assimilation policies of Todor Zhivkov's communist regime.[9] After he had been set free out of the jail in 1989, Ahmed Dogan, a former member of the Bulgarian communist secret service (the Committee for State Security), established the party. He headed it from its official establishment on 4 January 1990 until 19 January 2013, when a disgruntled Bulgarian Turk attacked him with a gas pistol.[10] Ahmed Dogan has been openly recorded promoting changes of the international boundaries in accordance with the ethnic borders, clarifying that there are either peaceful and political means for this or military and aggressive.[11] The ethnic or religious minority parties are not allowed according to Article 11, Paragraph 4 of the Constitution of Bulgaria, but the Constitutional Court denied to ban the party in 1992.[12]

On 19 January 2013, Lyutfi Mestan was elected as the second chairman of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.[13] He was removed from power by the insistence of the founder Dogan because Mestan had declared support for Turkey for the shot Russian airplane, then Erdoğan blacklisted Ahmed Dogan banning him from entering Turkey.[14]


Starting in 1990 as the first political party of the Muslim minority participating in the parliamentary elections, in the first elections in 1990 after the end of the communist regime, which the Muslims had boycotted, the party won 6.0% of the popular vote and 24 out of 400 seats and became the fourth largest party in the parliament. In the parliamentary elections in 1991 it won 7.6% of the vote and remained with 24 seats in а 240-seater parliament. In the elections in 1994 it won 5.4% of the vote and its seats decreased to 15. In the elections in 1997 it won 7.6% of the vote and 19 out of 240 seats. From 2001 to 2009, the party was part of the government, first in a coalition with the National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) party and then with the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). The party had ministers in the Sakskoburggotski Government, Stanishev Government and Oresharski Government (2013-2014).

It won in the elections in 2001 7.5% of the vote and 21 out of 240 seats. Subsequently, for the first time the party joined a coalition government, which was led by the winner of the elections (NDSV). Under the control of the party were two out of the 17 Bulgarian ministries the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests and the Minister without portfolio, the other 15 remained under the control of senior coalition partner NDSV. At the 2005 elections it increased to 12.8% of vote and 34 out of 240 seats and was kept in power as a part of the coalition led by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) party. The ministries under the control of the Movement of Rights and Freedoms increased to three out of 18.

At the 2009 elections it increased to 14.0% of vote and 37 out of 240 seats. Following the election, the government was totally occupied by the decisive winner, the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms was еxcluded from the government and remained in opposition after having been part of coalition governments for the two consecutive preceding terms between 2001 and 2009. At the 2009 European Parliament elections the party won 14.1% of the vote and three MEPs out of Bulgaria's total representation of 18. Two of the MEPs are ethnic Turks (Filiz Husmenova and Metin Kazak) and one (Vladko Panayotov) is ethnic Bulgarian.

In the Bulgarian parliamentary election in 2013, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms decreased to 11.3% of the vote; it took 36 seats and remained the third biggest party. The DPS won the elections abroad with 41.3% and the most polling stations and voters in a foreign country were in Turkey.

The DPS won four MEPs in the 2014 European Parliament elections.


Percentage of votes for MRF by electoral districts in the 2014 parliamentary elections
Map showing impressive performance of MRF at the Bulgarian local elections, 2015 compared to the other minority party People's Party Freedom and Dignity, which won no mayors of the municipalities or councils.
Bulgarian Parliament
Election # of seats won # of total votes % of popular vote rank
23 / 400
491,596 8.03% 3rd
24 / 240
418,168 7.6% 3rd
15 / 240
283,094 5.44% 4th
19 / 240
323,429 7.6% 3rd
21 / 240
340,395 7.45% 4th
34 / 240
467,400 12.81% 3rd
38 / 240
610,521 14.45% 3rd
36 / 240
400,466 11.31% 3rd
38 / 240
487,134 14.84% 3rd
European Parliament
Election # of seats won # of total votes % of popular vote rank
4 / 18
392,650 20.26% 3rd
3 / 18
364,197 14.14% 3rd
4 / 17
386,725 17.27% 3rd


Ethnic nature

On 8 October 1991, ninety-three members of Bulgaria's National Assembly — virtually all of them affiliated with the former Communist Party — asked the constitutional court to declare the DPS unconstitutional citing article 11.4 of the constitution which explicitly bans political parties "formed on ethnic, racial, and religious basis".[15] On 21 April 1992, the court rejected the petition and affirmed the constitutionality of the DPS.[16]

Even though the DPS has been legally a part of Bulgarian political life since then, some Bulgarian nationalists, particularly the far-right National Union Attack, continue to assert that it is anti-constitutional because it consists mainly of ethnic Turks.

However, the statute of the DPS states quite clearly that it "is an independent public and political organization, founded with the purpose of contributing to the unity of all Bulgarian citizens".[17]

Additionally, supporters of DPS argue that banning parties on the basis of their ethnic composition constitutes an instance of ethnic discrimination and is in contravention to European law, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in particular to which Bulgaria is a signatory. Furthermore, despite a similar constitutional ban, religious parties, such as the Bulgarian Christian Coalition have competed for parliamentary elections since 1997, and again in 2005, without any political upheaval.

More recently, Antonina Zheliazkova, head of the Centre for Interethnic Relations in Sofia, praised Ahmed Dogan by stating that "He has been working hard to open up the party to all citizens and has encouraged the DPS's supporters to be free to vote for non-ethnic parties".[18]

Other Turkish political factions

At present there are three other tiny Turkish political factions that oppose the DPS’s politics. These groups — which united to form the Balkan Democratic League — are the Movement of the Democratic Wing (DDK), led by Osman Oktay; the Party for Democracy and Justice (PDS), led by Nedim Gencev; and the Union of the Bulgarian Turks (SBT), led by Seyhan Türkkan.[18]

However, these movements, as well as the National Movement for Rights and Freedoms, member of a Social-Democratic coalition ('Rose coalition') failed to secure any elected representative in the parliament. A party founded in 2011 by members who left the party and headed by Korman IsmailovPeople's Party Freedom and Dignity, gained 1.5% of the vote in a coalition with National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) and therefore did not cross the 4% threshold to enter the parliament.[19] This party was part of the Reformist Bloc and crossed the threshold and entered the parliament and the government in 2014, but only with one Deputy Minister that was removed. Another political fraction DOST founded by the former leader Mestan, had 17,000 registered members in 2016, which were obtained only for about one year.[20] If so, the members of the Movement of Rights and Freedoms must have dropped in numbers.

Alleged manipulation of votes

The DPS was severely criticized by the Bulgarian ultra-nationalist party Attack as well as mainstream right-wing political parties such as Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (DSB) and the Union of Democratic Forces (SDS) and even by DPS coalition partners of the National Movement Simeon II for allegedly manipulating the vote in the June 2005 elections in some places by bringing Bulgarian citizens of Turkish origin living in Turkey to vote in the elections. However, allegations of ethnic Turks coming to vote in Bulgaria at their permanent address and then returning to Turkey to vote with their passports, could not be "verified or confirmed" by international observers, whose assessment on the election was that it was free and fair.[21]

Liberal party opposing privatization

In February 2005, the DPS opposed the privatisation of Bulgaria's largest tobacco company, Bulgartabac, which was backed by the government and the European Union, on the grounds that the industry traditionally employs ethnic Turks. The resulting crisis led to the resignation of vice premier Lidia Shuleva.[18]

References and notes

  2. 1 2 Parties and Elections in Europe: The database about parliamentary elections and political parties in Europe, by Wolfram Nordsieck
  3. Cerami, Alfio (2006), Social Policy in Central and Eastern Europe: The Emergence of a New European Welfare Regime, Lit verlag, p. 26
  4. Pantev, Plamen (2010), "Bulgaria", NATO at 60, IOS Press, p. 70
  5. Nikolai Genov; Anna Krasteva (1 January 2001). Recent Social Trends in Bulgaria, 1960-1995. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. p. 293. ISBN 978-0-7735-6825-9.
  6. "The Radical Right in Europe".
  7. Конституция на Република България
  8. "Mestan Succeeds Dogan as Bulgarian Ethnic Turkish Party Leader after Assassination Attempt". Novinite. 2013-01-19. Retrieved 2013-01-20.
  10. "Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria". Retrieved 2009-03-21.
  11. ""History, Politics and the Constitution: Ethnic Conflict and Constitutional Adjudication in Postcommunist Bulgaria", Slavic Review, Vol. 63, No. 1 (Spring, 2004), pp. 66-89". Retrieved 2009-03-21.
  12. "Statute of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms". Retrieved 2009-03-21.
  13. 1 2 3 "Bulgaria: Turkish Party Urged to Rethink Policies* - — Sofia News Agency". Retrieved 2009-03-21.
  15. Лютви Местан в Пловдив: Ще подкрепим кандидат за президент-ярък натовец

See also

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