By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and nationalist party leader Valeri Simeonov are to hold talks on the evening of November 19 after Simeonov threatened to withdraw support for Borissov’s government over the appointment of a deputy defence minister that he sees as a “pro-Turkish” agent.
Borissov’s government is in place as a formal coalition with the centre-right Reformist Bloc and with the parliamentary support of the socialist ABC and the nationalist coalition the Patriotic Front, of which Simeonov is co-leader.
The November 11 appointment of Orhan Ismailov, of the People’s Party Freedom and Dignity, part of the Reformist Bloc, sparked outrage on the part of the Patriotic Front.
Simeonov said on November 19 that the outcome of the talks with Borissov would determine whether the PF – holder of 19 seats in the recently-elected National Assembly – would withdraw its support for Borissov’s government.
Compounding matters on November 19 was a statement of support for Ismailov from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), the party led and supported in the main by Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity, from which the People’s Party Freedom and Dignity is in effect a breakaway.
The MRF was part of the former ruling axis that was in power from May 2013 to August 2014 but now is in opposition.
In a statement in the National Assembly, MRF parliamentary deputy leader Tuncer Kardzhaliev said that the party “did not accept and strongly condemns” what was unquestionably a discriminatory and xenophobic act against a Bulgarian citizen who had the necessary educational and administrative background to hold his post.
Kardzhaliev said that the calls for the dismissal of Ismailov were being made “only because of the sin of being named Orhan Ismailov”.
He said that the MRF was certain that the PF would continuously cause provocations within the ruling coalition.
Borissov should reject future similar attempts to discriminate against individuals because of their different ethnicity, Kardzhaliev said.
Responding, Simeonov said that the MRF and the People’s Party Freedom and Dignity were two sides of the same coin.
“They support the candidate of their opponents. These two ethnic parties play the same game. These are two pro-Turkish parties are working together.”
Simeonov challenged anyone to say whether his party had said anything against the appointment of people with “Turkish-Arabic” names.
“Did we say anything against Rashidov (Vezhdi Rashidov, Culture Minister in Borissov’s government, who is of ethnic Turkish descent) or against the appointment of the Deputy District Governor of Kurdjali?”
Simeonov said that Orhan Ismailov was a disgrace to the Ministry of Defence and to the dignity the post of deputy minister should represent”.
Simeonov said that the National Front for Salvation of Bulgaria (which he leads and which is one of the two major partners in the PF coalition) has members that are of Turkish origin, as well as people of Roma origin, adding that there was nothing bad about this.
“We support respect towards the ethnic groups. Orhan Ismailov can not be there simply because he is a representative of a pro-Turkish party. All his posts on Facebook are in Turkish,” Simeonov said.
Korman Ismailov, leader of the People’s Party Freedom and Dignity, said that the reaction of the PF against Orhan Ismailov was “absolutely inappropriate”.
Korman Ismailov said that he saw no point in holding talks with the PF on the issue.
“They are not part of the coalition agreement between GERB and the Reformist Bloc, they are not responsible with political parties. They support the programme, let’s continue to monitor the implementation of the government programme, and if there is dissatisfaction, object only then.”
There was no reason to be making slanderous accusations in calling for the reversal of the appointment, “at the heart of everything, this comes down to ethnic intolerance,” Korman Ismailov said.