“Bulgaria does not need early elections”. This is what the honorary chairman and founder of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) Ahmed Dogan told his party colleagues during his traditional speech on his birthday on December 20th. Dogan is the real leader DPS and his role is far greater than what his ceremonial post implies. He continues to exercise the real power in the movement together with the powerful businessman, media mogul and DPS MP Delyan Peevsky. Krassen Nikolov has the story.
Dogan’s speech officialises the obvious fact – DPS is not the opposition of the ruling GERB party, as its place in Parliament presupposes, but is its secret partner. And DPS does not intend to change this role in the next year. Dogan and Peevsky’s party supports the government of Boyko Borisov in almost all important initiatives. The last example is the deal of nearly 1 billion euros for the purchase of US F-16 fighters.
DPS is currently the fourth political force in the Bulgarian Parliament and has two MPs less than the official coalition partner of GERB – the United Patriots (DPS has 25 and the Patriots – 27, in the 240-member Parliament). The price Dogan’s party is asking for its support increases every day, because the scandal-struck nationalist coalition is unreliable. So the DPS sits on its favourite position to be the power broker. It has been doing that for nearly 25 years.
GERB needs this support to ensure the stability of its power. In return DPS receives informal instruments of influence and reassure their electorate that their vote matters. It has always been important for DPS to demonstrate to their voters that they are involved in governance and are therefore able to secure bonuses for their people throughout the country.
The benefits of this partnership are economic. Last year Dogan got a gas plant in Varna for the price of €1,600 (no, this is not a mistake). Moreover, this plant had signed contracts with the state for nearly €19 million euros. The authorities closed their eyes to this very strange deal.
The aim of DPS for the European elections is too clear. The party will show that it emerges from the crisis which it entered three years ago and will return to its old position as the third political power in the country. At the end of December, DPS’s formal leader and MP Mustafa Karadayi announced that the crisis in the party was over. The aim of DPS is to position itself strongly for the next national Parliament. And the goal is to enter power through the parade entrance, instead of being a secret partner.
The DPS crisis began with the expulsion of its former leader Lyutvi Mestan. He was expelled from the party because Dogan insisted so three years ago. Mestan was suspected to have too close ties with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Mestan’s response was to create a new party – Democrats for Responsibility, Freedom and Tolerance (DOST, an acronym meaning ‘Friend’ in Turkish). Mestan managed to attract many local DPS leaders and this seriously undermined Dogan. In the 2017 parliamentary elections, the DPS collapse was visible. The party was downgraded to a fourth political force, although the DOST “dissidents” failed to enter parliament, not having reached the 4% threshold.
Soon, Mestan’s party literally broke down. It has no hope of getting into power, and the old cadres of the DPS showed their regret. A total of 30 DOST leading figures announced they were leaving the formation.
DPS leader Karadayi predicted the break-up in DOST a few days before the meltdown happened: “This movie has ended”, he said, hinting that those who made the mistake to leave DPS were welcome back.
Dogan says that Bulgaria needed a non-partisan expert government which will turn the country’s economic development into a strategic priority. Also, Dogan wants GERB to dump the Patriots, the worst enemy for DPS.
“In the European elections, in the local elections [autumn 2019] and in the next parliamentary elections [regular in 2012 or early], each party will present a project for an accelerated development of the country that will trigger a public debate. No party has the necessary political and expert capacity to achieve this strategic goal. But the Bulgarian Parliament has this resource as a whole, because “unity makes the power”, Dogan said, using the state motto of Bulgaria, which was the motto of its presidency of the Council of the EU.
Of course, Dogan does not believe in the implementation of a non-partisan expert government. The purpose of this speech was to show that DPS is already strong enough to address to Boyko Borissov its claim to be officially on power.