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Parliament Votes To Scrap Communists’ Guaranteed Monopoly

January 15, 1990

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) _ Parliament voted unanimously Monday to abolish the Communist Party’s monopoly on power, opening the way to free elections, and it reaffirmed the abolition of harsh restrictions on the ethnic Turkish minority.

National Assembly deputies agreed to remove constitutional clauses, as other Soviet bloc countries have done, that for 40 years enshrined the party as ″the guiding force in society and the state.″

Foreign Minister Boyko Dimitrov told reporters if was ″a first step, but a very important, symbolic step. ... You shouldn’t move forward toward democracy by banning other parties.″

Alexander Dimitrov, a deputy, said in the debate: ″We should not forget that there is no Socialist and no bourgeois democracy. There is either democracy or there isn’t.″

Fledgling opposition groups, loosely allied in what they call the Union of Democratic Forces, were to begin negotiations with the Communists on Tuesday about further reforms and the elections tentatively scheduled for May.

About 200 people shouting ″Down with the Communists″ demonstrated outside Parliament on Monday, supporting opposition demands for their own offices and a newspaper. Petar Beron, an opposition spokesman, insisted the demands be settled before the negotiations started.

More than 50,000 people held a rally in freezing temperatures Sunday to press opposition demands for two-stage legislative elections that would give non-Communists a chance to organize.

They also called for removal of a constitutional clause defining Bulgaria as ″a socialist state ... headed by the working class.″

Parliament postponed action on those demands. Andrei Lukanov said a special committee should be named to draft changes in that and about 25 other constitutional articles by the end of February.

Such amendments are needed to hold free elections, but Lukanov said adoption of a new constitution should be left to the new Parliament. He is second in the leadership to Petar Mladenov, who became president and party chief after Stalinist leader Todor Zhivkov’s downfall in November.

Lukanov said he favored removing the reference to the leadership of the working class because no class should be privileged. He also said, however, that the party has popular support and Bulgaria should remain Communist.

″As a parliament, we can’t decide such a fundamental question . .. on the basis of a one-hour debate,″ he said. ″Only the people can decide this,″ in a referendum.

Under Mladenov and Lukanov, the Communists clearly hope to use their long dominance to preserve the standing lost by their comrades in Poland, Hungary East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Romania.

Like other East Europeans, ″we want democracy ... without some kind of preconditions,″ Lukanov said, but added: ″We believe in socialism, despite some deformations. ... We will fight for that and think it’s our historic task to do so.″

Opposition was crushed or strictly controlled by Zhivkov, who was forced out Nov. 10 after 35 years in power.

In debate Monday, deputies stridently condemned the Zhivkov years and calmly voted to overturn the one-party rule that provided their own power and privilege.

A deputy who did not identify himself declared: ″If the working class really had that leading role, it would never have permitted our prisons and camps to be crowded by thousands of peasants, our brothers and fathers.″

Mikhail Genovsky, an elderly member of the Bulgarian Agrarian Party, the only other political party Zhivkov permitted, said: ″The blood that has been shed, we cannot forget.″

″Todor Zhivkov said we could have only 120,000 members,″ he said. ″We had to ask local Communist Party officials for permission for every new member.″

On the ethnic question, Parliament approved a declaration adopted by a broad forum of Communists, opposition and ethnic leaders last week supporting the decision to restore language, religious and educational rights to the 1.2 million ethnic Turks, most of whom are Moslems.

Many Bulgarian nationalists opposed a decision by the leadership Dec. 29 to restore the rights abolished in 1985 after an assimilation campaign that forced ethnic Turks to take Bulgarian names.

Last week’s compromise endorsed the decision but also said Bulgarian is the official language in this nation of we oarian is the official language and affirmed Bulgaria’s ″territorial integrity.″

Parliament gave approval in principle Monday to amnesty for about 8,500 prisoners, including two dozen ethnic Turks jailed for defending their minority rights.

It would be the third amnesty since Zhivkov fell. Vasil Mrachkov, the former prosecutor-general, told the deputies 60 ethnic Turks were included in the first two.

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