Petrov: Bulgaria’s Turks “Trying To Show That They Are Still In The Game”

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Bulgaria will likely form a government after its third round of snap elections this Sunday. The country’s ethnic Turks are hoping to use their performance to influence the presidential pick.
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The latest episode of FeniksPod welcomed Angel Petrov, a journalist at Bulgaria’s Dnevnik newspaper who covers Balkan and Middle Eastern affairs.

Petrov discussed Bulgaria’s upcoming November 14 elections, which will be the third round this year after the two previous contests failed to produce a government.

“It is more likely that a government will be formed this time, especially considering the increased efforts of several parties that were lacking in the previous two attempts,” Petrov said.

However, Petrov also added that former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and his center right GERB party will have difficulty forming a government.

Borisov, who served as PM for over a decade, resigned in April after he and his party became the subject of widespread anti-corruption protests.

In July’s elections, the anti-establishment “There is Such a People Party” won the most seats but fell well short of the majority needed to form a government.

According to Petrov, the big difference between those elections and the ones on Sunday is the rising popularity of the “We Continue the Change” platform.

“This is an organization set up by two former caretaker ministers who exposed the wrongdoings of Borisov’s governments. They became very popular and decided to capitalize on this popularity. Just a month after their establishment they came second in a recent poll,” Petrov said.

Regarding the presidential elections, which will take place alongside the general elections, Petrov said that current President Rumen Radev is still leading the polls.

However, the biggest surprise in this race is that Bulgaria’s large Turkish minority nominated a presidential candidate (for the first time), and he may become a kingmaker in the second round of the presidential elections.

“Mustafa Karadaya, the presidential candidate of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), is expected to get some 10 percent of the total vote. This will then go to another candidate in second round. The DPS electorate is very disciplined, and their vote has always been important,” Petrov observed.

He also noted that the pro-Turkish DPS survived the split of the Turkish vote in 2017.

Bulgaria has the largest ethnic Turkish minority in the Balkans. They primarily live in eastern and southern Bulgaria and constitute nearly 9 percent of the country’s entire population.

The DPS also receives support from other sources, particularly thanks to its alliances with other ethnic and religious minorities such the Roma and Pomaks (Muslim Bulgarians). In July’s elections, the DPS received over 10.5 percent of the vote, securing 29 seats in the parliament.

“Other Turkish parties can’t compete. The spin-off party, DOST, which was established after the Turkish-Russian jet crisis in 2016, can’t pass the electoral threshold, so the DPS isn’t challenged for the Turkish vote. It is likely that the DPS can get up to 13 percent of the overall vote,” Petrov said, concluding that “the DPS [is] trying to show that they are still in the game.”