Information on political groups in Bulgaria. [BGR8157]

On 3 April 1990, the Grand National Assembly (GNA) adopted a law on political parties and movements, which establishes the "constitutional right of freely joining political parties." The law guarantees all parties equal rights but prohibits the formation of parties "based on ethnic, or religious principles," as well as those that threaten Bulgaria's "sovereign and territorial integrity" or which incite "racial, nationality, and ethnic or religious enmity" (FBIS-EEU-90-065, 4 Apr. 1990, Pp.4-5).

The Bulgarian Constitution also prohibits the formation of ethnically or religiously centred parties, while Article 162 of the Bulgarian Penal Code states that whoever joins or creates an organization which, "propagates or abets to racial or national hostility or hatred or to racial discrimination shall be punished with deprivation of liberty for up to three years" (Ministry of Justice of Bulgaria, 1987, Pp. 39-40; RFE 24 Aug. 1990, P. 6).

According to a 9 May 1990 report, 56 parties and movements had legally registered to take part in the June 1990 elections (FBIS-EEU-90-094 15 May 1990, P. 18). Since then, various reports indicate that 38 additional parties and movements have been created.

Reports available to the IRBDC mentions only two groups that have been denied legal registration: the Ilinden United Macedonian Organization (Ilinden) and the Ilinden IMRO-Independent. Both groups represent Macedonians in Bulgaria and want the Bulgarian government to recognize the Macedonian minority and guarantee it the right to use the Macedonian language and promote Macedonian culture (RFE 24 Aug. 1990, P. 6)

Local courts have denied both groups official registration on the grounds that their aims violate the Constitution and the Law on Political Groups and Parties, both of which prohibit the creation of ethnically based groups. Ilinden appealed to the Supreme Court which upheld the Blageovgrad district court's decision in early November 1990. The group revised its constitution and is now waiting for a final decision by the Supreme Court. Ilinden IMRO-Independent made the same changes to its constitution and has reapplied to the Sofia procurator's office after its initial application for registration was turned down in July 1990 (FBIS-EEU-90-223, 19 Nov. 1990, P. 21; Helsinki Watch 12 Feb. 1991, Pp. 6-7).

The changes made to the statutes of both Ilinden and Ilinden IMRO-Independent emphasize that these groups do not question the territorial integrity of Bulgaria and foreswear the use of violence in achieving their goals (Helsinki Watch 12 Feb. 1991, Pp. 6-7).

Members of both Ilinden and Ilinden IMRO-Independent have faced difficulties from the Bulgarian authorities, according to a recent report by Helsinki Watch. Between August 1990 and January 1991, the report indicates that members have been detained, fined, monitored by State Security officers, had their passports and personal papers confiscated, and been prevented from gathering petition signatures, because of their political activities in association with these two groups (Helsinki Watch 12 Feb. 1991, Pp. 7-10).

Two human rights observers indicate that members of Podkrepa are also facing problems. Podkrepa is an independent labour federation, which until 30 October 1990, was a full member of the Union of Democratic Forces (UDF), the coalition which won 144 of 400 parliamentary seats during the June 1990 elections. Podkrepa still maintains observer status within the UDF (FBIS-EEU-90-210 30 Oct. 1990, P. 5).

Theodore Zang of Helsinki Watch in New York states that he has received numerous "anecdotal" reports that members of Podkrepa are being fired from their jobs and are the last to be chosen when employment is available. These reports indicate that Podkrepa members are facing such discrimination due to their affiliation with the federation (Zang 25 Feb. 1991). Abigail Abrash of the International Human Rights Law Group confirms that many people who belong to Podkrepa have already lost their jobs and she adds that "members of that union will face a lot of terms of job security" (Abrash 19 Mar. 1991)

Opinion polls conducted in Bulgaria provide some information on the popularity of the major political groups in Bulgaria. A December 1990 poll indicates that if an election had been held at that time, the UDF would get 38 percent of the vote, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) 22 percent, the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union (BANU) about 12 percent and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms about 5 percent (FBIS-EEU-90-251 31 Dec. 1990, Pp. 8-9). Two other polls provide slightly different data but also indicate more support for the UDF than the BSP (RFE 8 Feb. 1991, P. 38; FBIS-EEU-91-012 17 Jan. 1991, P. 6).

The new coalition government, formed in mid-December 1990, consists of a prime minister, three deputy prime ministers, and 15 cabinet ministers. The Prime Minister and four cabinet ministers, including the Minister of Interior Affairs, do not belong to any party. The BSP, UDF, and BANU have one deputy prime minister each. The BSP controls six ministries while the UDF and BANU each control two (RFE 18 Jan. 1991; RFE 22 Feb. 1991, P. 9ftn).

Although the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) is the third largest force in parliament, with more seats than BANU, it was left out of the coalition government. The MRF explicitly espouses minority rights for Bulgaria's ethnic Turks although it is careful to downplay its Turkish character and has disavowed Turkish nationalist sentiments (East European Reporter Autumn-Winter 1990, P. 27; RFE 31 Aug. 1991, P. 4). According to a 20 December 1990 report from the government controlled Bulgarian Telegraph Agency, the leader of the UDF, Filip Dimitrov suggests that the MRF was not given any cabinet positions in the new government for fear of inflaming ethnic tensions throughout the country (FBIS-EEU-90-246 21 Dec. 1990, P. 8).

Abrash, Abigail. 19 March 1991. Staff member of the International Human Rights Law Group, Washington, D.C. Telephone Interview.

East European Reporter. Autumn-Winter 1990. Anguelov, Zlatko."The Leader and His Movement."

FBIS-EEU-91-012. 17 January 1991. "Allegation of Ganev Election Fraud Investigated" in BTA [Sofia, in English], 16 January 1991.

FBIS-EEU-90-251. 31 December 1990. "Results of Opinion Poll on Political Preferences" in BTA [Sofia, in English], 29 December 1990.

FBIS-EEU-90-246. 21 December 1990. "DPS Does Not Take Stand on New Cabinet" in BTA [Sofia, in English], 20 December 1990.

FBIS-EEU-90-223. 19 November 1990. "Supreme Court Rejects Ilinden Organization Appeal" in BTA [Sofia, in English], 14 November 1990.

FBIS-EEU-90-210. 30 October 1990. "Podkrepa Leader Interviewed on Depoliticization" in BTA [Sofia, in English], 30 October 1990.

FBIS-EEU-90-094. 15 May 1990. "List of Parties, Groups Registered for Elections" in Otechestvan Front [Sofia], 9 May 1990.

FBIS-EEU-90-065. 4 April 1990. "Agreement on Political Parties Law" in Zemedelsko Zname [Sofia], 31 March 1990.

Helsinki Watch. 12 February 1991. News From Helsinki Watch. "Destroying Ethnic Identity: Selective Persecution of Macedonians in Bulgaria."

Ministry of Justice of Bulgaria. 1987. The Penal Code. Sofia.

Radio Free Europe. 22 February 1991. Vol. 2, No. 8, Report on Eastern Europe. Nikolaev, Rada. "Prime Minister Presents the New Government's Program."

Radio Free Europe. 8 February 1991. Vol. 2, No. 6, Report on Eastern Europe. "Weekly Record of Events."

Radio Free Europe. 18 January 1991. Vol. 2, No. 3, Report on Eastern Europe. Nikolaev, Rada. "The New Coalition Government."

Radio Free Europe. 31 August 1990. Vol. 1, No. 35, Report on Eastern Europe. Engelbrekt, Kjell. "Profiles of Opposition Leaders."

Radio Free Europe. 24 August 1990. Vol. 1, No. 34, Report on Eastern Europe. Perry, Duncan M. "The Macedonian Question Revitalized."

Zang, Theodore. 25 February 1991. Staff member of Helsinki Watch, New York, New York. Telephone Interview.