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Communist Party Favors Multiparty Democracy, Religious Freedom

January 19, 1990

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) _ The Communist Party advocates a multiparty system, parliamentary democracy, and religious freedom in draft documents to be adopted at a party congress this month.

The party statement, outlined late Thursday and due to be voted on when the congress convenes Jan. 30, also called for eliminating the Communists’ ″Marxist-Leninist″ label.

The changes are in line with the Communists’ efforts to shed the Stalinist image left over from the 34-year rule of hard-line leader Todor Zhivkov. Zhivkov, who was forced to step down Nov. 10, is now under house arrest and charged with abuse of power and fomenting ethnic unrest while in office.

″The Bulgarian Communist Party must be de-Stalinized and established as a new type of contemporary Marxist party,″ said a draft declaration reported by the official BTA news agency.

The report did not say when the drafts were formulated or by whom. Usually such draft documents are done by senior party members.

″The political system of democratic socialism implies a multiparty system, parliamentary democracy ... separation of legislative, executive and judiciary powers ... guaranteed freedoms, (and) autonomy of science and education,″ the document said.

According to the declaration, the Communist Party is willing to recognize religious and some ethnic rights of the 1.5 million minority Turks and other Bulgarian Moslems known as Pomaks.

Zhivkov’s often-violent, forced assimilation policy banned Moslem religious practices and required ethnic Turks and Moslems to forsake their own names and take Bulgarian ones.

Bulgaria’s ″society of national unity and agreement″ should unite ″all citizens ... to provide freedom of rites and the use of the language preferred in the everyday life, while guaranteeing (Bulgaria’s) territorial entity and sovereignty and the Bulgarian language as an official one,″ the draft declaration said.

The statement promised to provide guarantees against a ″relapse to authoritarian methods and style of leadership,″ but it did not say what these guarantees would involve.

Parliament on Jan. 15 abolished the Communists’ guaranteed monopoly on power, but talks with the opposition on power-sharing and democratization broke down Thursday after the leadership refused to provide media access to the talks - a key opposition demand.

The draft provides for all party offices to be elective and for ballots to be secret.

All party office-holders, apparently also including the party chief, should only serve for two terms, BTA quoted the draft statute as saying.

It provided for the congress, the supreme body of the Communist Party, to be convened every two years, instead of at five-year intervals as is the case now.

The document also urged a radical restructuring of the party, which would include a Supreme Party Council to replace the existing policy-setting Central Committee.

Within the Supreme Party Council, committees and working groups would be established to ″work on major problems of party activity,″ BTA said.

The declaration proposed that the Supreme Party Council should elect a chairman, two deputy chairmen and a secretary of the party.

Together with the chairmen of the standing committees, they would form the chairmanship of the party - the apparent successor to the ruling Politburo.

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