Feature

Bulgaria: An assassination attempt on live TV

Bulgaria has been shamed before the entire world.

Bulgaria has been shamed before the entire world, said Aleko Bichevski in Duma (Bulgaria). Last week, a deranged person stormed the stage at a political conference and pointed a gun at a politician’s temple on live television; when the gun failed to fire, Bulgarian members of parliament rushed the would-be attacker and beat him in a frenzy, stomping him into a bloody mess. No harm was done to the intended target, Ahmed Dogan, who was attacked during his farewell speech as leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the main party of the ethnic Turkish minority. And the attacker, Oktai Enimehmedov, 25, is in custody. But a video of the entire incident went viral on the Internet, and the damage to Bulgaria’s reputation is immeasurable. The attack is “the biggest disgrace of the National Security Service in its entire history.” And the behavior of the deputies who beat Enimehmedov portrays us as “a primitive country where the prevailing mores are tribal.”

The assassination attempt was so surreal it almost seemed staged—and maybe it was, said Miriam Elder in The Guardian (U.K.). It turns out the gun could not have killed Dogan; it was loaded only with pepper spray and jammed before it could be fired. Its wielder, Enimehmedov, is a bizarre figure, reportedly jealous of his brother’s fame as winner of a Bulgarian dance reality show. Many Bulgarians believe Dogan himself staged the attack to boost his party’s image. “It seems like a pretty artificial attempt to present their party as a victim, to rally their voters,” said Ivan Dikov, an editor at the Sofia News Agency.

But party members are genuinely furious, said Yanitsa Taneva in Focus (Bulgaria), particularly at the authorities’ response to the incident. The deputies who beat Enimehmedov, believing they were protecting their leader, are being charged with assault. Meanwhile, Enimehmedov may get off with attempted hooliganism, as authorities now say that his lack of bullets proves he intended not to kill but only to make a political statement. Yet Lyutvi Mestan, the party’s new chairman, points out that he carried knives as well. “How can authorities be sure that the goal wasn’t to stupefy the victim with the pepper spray and then to attack him with the knives?” he said.

Whether faked or real, the attack has certainly helped the party, said Peter Sturm Konstantinov in Dnevnik (Bulgaria). The Movement for Rights and Freedoms’ members, once squabbling internally, have now rallied around their besieged ex-leader, and the party is “further cemented as the major political force for Bulgarian Turks and Muslims.” But the other big winner is the far Right. The Attack party, an ultranationalist party that opposes immigration and all things Turkish, can only benefit when ethnic Turkish politicians are so prominent in the news—it “reminds the nationalist electorate who the enemy is.”

The loser here is Bulgaria, said Martin Karbovski in Standart (Bulgaria), now seen as “smoldering with ethnic hatred.” No matter that both attacker and attacked were ethnic Turks. In the eyes of the world, “our morals are Balkan and unpredictable.”

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