Movement for Rights and Freedoms

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Movement for Rights and Freedoms
Движение за права и свободи
Hak ve Özgürlükler Hareketi
Chairman Lyutvi Mestan[1]
Founder and 1st chairman Ahmed Dogan
Founded 4 January 1990
Headquarters Sofia
Ideology Muslim minority interests[2]
Centrism[2]
Liberalism[3][4]
Social liberalism[5]
Political position Centre-left
International affiliation Liberal International
European affiliation Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
European Parliament group Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Colours Blue
National Assembly:
0 / 240
European Parliament:
4 / 17
Website
http://www.dps.bg/
Politics of Bulgaria
Political parties
Elections
Ahmed Dogan was the founder and 1st chairman of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms

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 and its principal electorate are ethnic minority groups, including Turks and Bulgarian Turks in Turkey.

As parties of ethnic and religious nature are forbidden by the Constitution of Bulgaria, the party has described itself as a party for all Bulgarians, whose aim at the same time is the welfare of the minorities. The party's predecessor during the communist rule in the 1980s was the underground organization Turkish National Freedom Movement. 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 was chaired by Ahmed Dogan from its official establishment on 4 January 1990 until 19 January 2013. On 19 January 2013, Lütfi Mestan was elected as the second chairman of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms.[6]

Elections[edit]

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 communist regime which the Muslims 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.

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 2 out of 17 Bulgarian ministries - the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests and the Minister without portfolio, the rest 15 remained under the control of NDSV. At the 2005 elections it increased to 12.8% of vote and 34 out of 240 seats and 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 3 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 being part of coalition governments two consecutive terms between 2001 and 2009. At the 2009 European Parliament elections the party won 14.1% of the vote and 3 MEPs out 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 4 MEPs in the 2014 European Parliament elections.

Controversies[edit]

Ethnic nature[edit]

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".[7] On 21 April 1992, the court rejected the petition and affirmed the constitutionality of the DPS.[8]

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".[9]

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.[10]

Other Turkish political factions[edit]

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.[10]

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 Ismailov - People's Party Freedom and Dignity, gained 1.531% of the vote in a coalition with National Movement Simeon II (NDSV) and therefore did not cross the 4% threshold to enter the parliament.[11]

Alleged manipulation of votes[edit]

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.[citation needed] 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.[12]

Liberal party opposing privatization[edit]

In February 2005, the DPS opposed the privatisation of Bulgaria's largest tobacco company, Bulgartabak, 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.[10]

References and notes[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]