Tensions between Bulgaria and Turkey rise ahead of Bulgarian election

Bulgaria accuses Turkey of interfering in its internal politics by sending Bulgarian ethnic Turks to vote, but Ankara says Sofia is pressuring the minority.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Bulgarian nationalists hold flags during a rally aimed at preventing ethnic Turks with Bulgarian passports from crossing into Bulgaria.

Updated Mar 27, 2017

Bulgarian police on Friday removed nationalists who were blocking border checkpoints with Turkey in an effort to stop buses bringing Bulgarian ethnic Turks to vote in Sunday's parliamentary election, amid growing tension between the two neighbours.

The capital, Sofia, has accused Ankara of interference in its election through its support to the Freedom and Dignity People's Party (DOST) that represents Bulgarian Turks, the country's largest ethnic minority. Turkey denies the claim.

TRT World's Nicole Johnston reports from Bulgaria.

Polls suggest DOST will fall short of the four-percent vote needed to enter parliament.

The Bulgarian government has recalled its ambassador to Turkey and summoned Turkey's envoy in Sofia. 

DOST is led by Lutvi Mestan who was forced out of his old party when he supported Ankara for downing a Russian military jet in Syria in 2015.

Mestan rejects accusations that Turkey is meddling, saying it's propaganda.

Nicole Johnston also visited the town of Kardzali in southern Bulgaria.

TRTWorld and agencies