The registration of a newly founded party mostly of Turkish-Bulgarian citizens was denied by a Bulgarian court that deemed it violated a law prohibiting the foundation of "an ethnicity-based" party by having a Turkish word as its acronym and accepting mostly Turkish members.
Democrats for Unity, Solidarity and Tolerance was founded by a group of Turkish-Bulgarian citizens who left the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, another party representing the Turkish-Bulgarian minority once chaired by Lütfi Mestan, the current chairman of the new party. After holding their first convention in April, the party applied to a court in Sofia to be registered as a new political party. However, the court rejected the application on Friday on the grounds that the party's acronym DOST - "friend" in Turkish - hinted that the party was formed "on an ethnic, racial or religious basis," which would violate the constitution. It also pointed out that the party's founders were ethnically Turkish and that would violate the constitution, too, as it bans the foundation of parties based on ethnicity or religion.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Mestan said they would appeal the verdict. He said that the party was a "liberal democratic movement" and that 20 percent of its members were "Bulgarians of Christian faith." "Being an ethnicity-based party is not linked to the ethnicity of its members, but rather the policies it is founded upon. Our party's charter openly says that our goal is to sustain democracy in Bulgaria and keep it on its path to "Euro-Atlantic development," he said, referring to Bulgaria's integration into the European Union and NATO. "We advocate equality for all citizens, and we oppose the treatment of Turks, Muslims and other minorities in Bulgaria as second-class citizens. Defending Turks' rights does not make us a party of Turkey, but rather it makes us a party that defends minorities. I think the judge did not notice the difference," he said. He said they believed a higher court would overturn the verdict to prove that there is no discrimination against anyone in Bulgaria and "the law treats all people equally in Bulgaria."