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Bulgarian Ethnic Model. A Pragmatical National Version of the Multiethnic Dialog

Part IV

Ethnic minorities' involvement in the political power

    During the municipal electoral campaign in 1999 MRF' concurrent Nedim Gendjev, leader of the Turkish Democratic Party of Justice (DPJ) attempted to attract the Turkish minority's support for his candidate-mayor in the town of Iakoruda. An old man, living there declared that they do not like too much Ahmed Dogan and his unchangeable leadership. In the same time, the Bulgarian Turks support MRF because the minorities do not believe to Bulgarian State, its political parties and their coalition partners (like DPJ). The Muslim community in the country is about 13%, while its involvement in the different levels of the power is limited permanently only within the legislative branch. It is resulting from the way of direct electoral participation, while the other political gates remain closed in face of the numerous ethnic communities. There are "sensitive" fields of the power where the presence of the minorities' representatives is practically forbidden. In short, we mention the application of varied even contradictory principles that regulate the minority community involvement in the State administration. In general, more the position requested is characterized by increased degree of responsibility, more the access is hindered. So, every power from among the three separated powers according to the Constitution imposes specific features of minorities' involvement.

    1.The democratic competition on the legislative branch remains the clearest. The appropriate rules are mentioned in the Constitution. As far as MRF is the third local political forcexxxvii their representatives are permanently enrolled in the Parliament. Since 1989, MRF 's deputies represent between 6% and 12% of posttotalitarian Bulgarian legislators. In the mean time, we distinguish two types of minorities' involvement in the legislative power. It depends of the manner of their participation in the main political formations:

  1. A "disperse way" means penetration or in short "infiltration" of the minorities' representatives throughout the two biggest Bulgarian political parties - UDF and BSP. This approach had been innovated by UDF for marginalization of those ethnic groups through establishment of "satellite" parallel structures of the principal minority subject - MRF. BSP imitated this preelectoral tool for recruitment. In this way appeared a limited number of Turk and Gypsy deputies in the Socialist and Conservative lists, while the other important minorities' Pomaks, Armenians and Jews are essentially involved through implementation of the mentioned "disperse way".

  2. B. Inversely, a "quota way" is applied by the MRF towards the other ethnic groups and especially Bulgarian majority. As a majority within the political party in question the Turks attempt to diversify their parliamentary team by involving in it about 15-20% Bulgarians and about 5% Pomaks. The first group aims to convince the public opinion in the permanent and sincere MRF leadership endeavor for its willingness of national decapsulation process, while the Pomaks (who are MRF members inversely to the Bulgarian deputies) remain funnel for electoral access to this specific Muslim community. It is strange because MRF pretends to be protector of all minorities in the country. For sure, Romas are marginalized from the leadership and pushed out from MRF parliamentary lists.

  3.     2.The involvement in the executive branch is the most indicative and symptomatic mark for the level of minorities' participation in the Bulgarian political governance. As Parliamentary Republic the real power in the country is concentrated in the executive and its chief. The Prime Minister is considered as the "powerful man" in Sofia. On some extend from his subjective political assessment and personal willingness depends the outlines of the sensitive process of minorities' involvement in the different levels of the power. The so-called "positive" minorities" (Armenians and Jews), are permanently presented within the wide Bulgarian administration. By the way, for the first time, a lady, Reneta Indjova, Armenian roots, had governed post-totalitarian Bulgaria as Prime Minister. Notwithstanding, all main political parties included and are still including Jews and Armenians representatives within their political teams (ministers and the deputy-ministers). Meanwhile, Turks and Gypsies are canceled from participation on this level. Since the establishment of the Third Bulgarian State in 1878 there was not appointed member in the Bulgarian executive from Turk and Gypsy origin. This includes the period 1992-1994 when the Bulgarian Parliament voted government of Prof. Liuben Berov, formally proposed by the MRF. All members of the executive were Bulgarians despite the parliamentary initiative fell to the MRF' fraction. In short, statistics remain very pessimistic regarding the minorities' involvement in the sensitive or the "powerful" ministries. In the period 1989-2001 only two persons from Turk and Gypsy origin were appointed in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, none police officers in the Ministry of Interior. Inversely, in 2000 in the Ministry of Defense a person from Turk origin got his assignment as deputy Minister. It seems that after the legislative elections on June 2001 MRF plans a wide range of "penetration" towards the so-called "powerful State institutions" (the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior and Defense).xxxviii

        3. Certain misbalance and dependence from the executive characterize the judicial branch in post-totalitarian Bulgaria, regardless the separation of the powers in the State, guaranteed by the new, democratic Constitution. The post-Communist reform in this field encountered series of unexpected setbacks that slow down the process of minorities' involvement in it. Despite the expand of the law faculties during the period 1989-1995 from 1 to 14 and the acquirement of significant law knowledge from part of the minorities' students, they gained appointments in the judiciary branch only in the "mixed" regions. We witness Turks and Gypsies magistrates on the low level (judges, prosecutors and investigators) in the districts of Kikdjali, Shumen, Razgrad, etc… In the biggest towns Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna the minorities are practically ignored from the judicial branch. Similar human resources policy is implemented within the high magistracy ranges (the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Judicial Council, the Supreme Appeal Court, the Supreme Administrative Court, etc…)

        4. The involvement of the minorities in the local governance remains implemented upon similar principles as the principles of the central executive power. They may be summarized in two main points:

    1. A territorial approach, which is specific for the human resources recruitment throughout the so-called "mixed regions". In practice, in the biggest regional centers in Southeast (Kurdjali, Momchilgrad, Ardino, etc…) and the middle agglomerations in Northeast (Omurtag, Isperih, Novi Pazar, etc…) the Turks are monopolizing the municipal power.

    2. A political approach is appropriate for the capital Sofia and the biggest Bulgarian towns. The Armenians are favorites upon the high level administrative posts (mayors, municipal advisors, experts, etc…), while the Turks and the Gypsies are often appointed as experts responsible for the management of the minorities' culture, education, media, arts, etc… It is worthy to mention that often the "political approach" may be interpreted as political bargaining. In 1999 the UDF Sofia mayor St. Sofianski appointed Sofia coordinator of the allied party "Free Bulgaria" S. Ibrahim as expert for Sofia Gypsy culture development. Plovdiv mayor Iv. Chomakov undertook similar activities, but the alluded minorities' representative is Turk belonging to the UDF coalition partner - NMRF, leaded by G. Tahir. By the way, inversely situation is registrated in the third Bulgarian town Varna. There BSP won the mayoralty and the local Socialist mayor K. Iordanov appointed the MRF Varna leader H. Beihanov as ecological expert.xxxix

        5.The potential of the civil society structures is another aspect of the minorities' involvement process in the democratic governance in Bulgaria. It seems that the State is predisposed to stimulate this type of activity appropriate for the democratic political system. On May 2000 the Parliament voted appropriate law that may not be assessed as contributive and encouraging the democratic development. Thus, the notion "NGO" as such remained abrogated from the law disposition.

        There are about 3 000 foundations and 1 500 associations, which formal activity is oriented towards minorities' self-identification process or involvement in the society.xl Indeed, the number of the effective legal persons in the field remains about few dozens, principally oriented towards distribution of the abundant foreign assistance for the local Turk and Gypsy community.

        The International Center for Minorities' Problems and Cultural Interactions (IMIR), headed by Dr. Antonina Jeliazkova is one of the leading NGOs working in the field. As part of international NGO network, it initiated the most serious and significant research projects, workshops, conferences and decisively contributed for the cultural identification of diverse Bulgarian minorities. Beside the academic studies, IMIR conducts remarkable funding activities, creates job opportunities, grants fellowships, aids retiree artists, scholars, etc…

        The governmental project "Evet" is another quite important activity oriented towards reaching European standards of communication in the "mixed regions". A sum of one million $ cost an internet network installation realized throughout the district of Razgrad, rural region with compact Turkish population. Similar projects are planned in Southeast (Kurdjali, Momchilgrad, etc…).


        Bulgarian Posttotalitarian State and society speed towards European standards' implementation in the new democratic agenda. This country of SEE remains sample of political stability and multiethnic coexistence after the consecutive Yugoslav wars and after the dangerous military and political crisis provoked by the Albanian factor in neighboring Macedonia. We may focus on the following main pragmatic steps aiming to improve BEM and to strengthen the local ethnic and social harmony in the country:

        1.Dradual acceptance of the European law in the field of the collective rights protection. The active participation of MRF deputies in the legislative process may be considered as guaranty for the minorities' rights protection. In the same time, this matter has to be "enriched" by the specific characteristics of Bulgarian post-Communist political tradition. If necessary, the original European human rights laws should be clarified by annexes - ideological compromises that introduce the local political specificity.

        2.Overcoming the grim economic situation with special cares to the population in the so-called "mixed regions". On 31 March 2001 Ahmed Dogan declared: "BEM and national stability remain on account of the Turks." The unemployment and the related immigration to Turkey are distinguishable marks of the irrational economic State policy towards the minorities. Direct investments and proportional social cares are imperative requirements for maintaining the ethnic peace and ethnic social harmony.

        3. Bulgarian State and the internal political factors have to undertake appropriate political activities that guarantee the permanent and sufficient involvement of the minorities in the public administration. Especially, the gradual and flexible appointment of Turk and Roma representatives in the three "powerful" State institutions (the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defense and Interior) would play the role of turning point of the human resources policy. The ethnic tension provoked by an eventual obstructionist policy or a political isolation of the MRF may shake the BEM peaceful basis. MRF participation in the power is the background of the Bulgarian peaceful option of a multiethnic harmony.

        4. The Bulgarian State has to extend the process of minorities' identification. The improvement of the mother tongue learning process, focusing on the original minority culture, full access to the State media (especially the electronic media), stimulation of the minorities' children in mastering the international technical performances (computer skills, internet access, etc…) are preliminary conditions for the ongoing BEM public institutionalization.


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    Notes - Part IV

    xxxvii.MRF remains the third political party in Bulgaria until now. Permanently it passes the threshold of 4% and won in the parliamentary election in 1990, 1991, 1994 and 1997 between 6% and 12%. It seems that in the coming election in June MRF will step back in front of the new pro-monarchy coalition "Simeon II".Back

    xxxviii.After the parliamentary elections in June 2001 as part of the ruling coalition with National Movement Simeon II MRF accessed to the posts of 2 ministers, 5 deputy ministers (including the Ministry of Defense), 3 governors (including the capital Sofia) and 8 deputy governors. It is for the first time in Bulgarian executive branch had been included Ministers with Turk names.Back

    xxxix.The accession to Sofia governor post from MRF by resulting of the coalition agreement with NMSII had been assessed as political deal. Simeon II insisted on Kardjali governor instead of governor of Sofia. The last Prime Minister insisted on the fact that an ethnic Bulgarian solves the problems of the biggest Bulgarian town populated by Turks. In addition, some MRF governors are requested to be with Bulgarian names.Back

    xl.The statistics in this field is practically impossible.Back