A party campaigning on behalf of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria’s upcoming general election received the backing of a Turkey-based NGO on Tuesday.
The Balkan Migrants Culture and Solidarity Association (Bal-Goc) said it supported the Democrats for Responsibility, Freedom and Tolerance (DOST) party.
‘Dost’ means ‘close friend’ in Turkish.
As a former Ottoman territory, Bulgaria has a large Turkish minority of about 10 percent, according to official census figures.
Many Bulgarian citizens also live in Turkey.
Bal-Goc was formed in 1985 in Turkey mainly by emigrants from the Balkans to Turkey, including many Bulgarian citizens.
DOST was founded by Lyutvi Mestan in 2016; it is campaigning ahead of Sunday’s early election, called after the November 2016 resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
Mestan was expelled from another party which also relied on Turkish minority support in Bulgaria following a speech he made which defended Turkey and NATO over the November 2015 downing of a Russian warplane along the Turkish-Syrian border.
Mestan has previously described the DOST party as campaigning for “equal rights for all Bulgarian citizens, regardless of their language and religion.”
However, the party mainly relies on ethnic-Turkish support in Bulgaria.
The head of Bal-Goc, Yuksel Ozkan, said Mestan had been removed from his position undemocratically before going on to form DOST.
Ozkan said his group wished success for DOST in the elections.
"We announce that we will support them with our members and with our brothers and sisters living in Turkey and Bulgaria," Ozkan added.
Bulgarian citizens will vote on March 26 in the country's third parliamentary election since 2013.
According to the Central Election Commission of Bulgaria there are 6.5 million voters in the country.
Expat Bulgarian citizens will be able to vote in 400 centers abroad. Thirty-five ballot boxes will also be set in Turkey for Bulgarian citizens.