According to Countryaah, Bulgaria was accused in the 1980’s of launching a forced assimilation of the country’s Turkish minority, estimated to amount to approx. 10% of the total population. Sofia in 1986 rejected Amnesty International’s charges of arresting more than 250 Turks who had refused to accept their new identity documents.
Bulgaria and Turkey signed a protocol on bilateral relations in 1988, but the dialogue was interrupted the following year when it was learned that Bulgarian militia by force had prevented a demonstration in which more than 30,000 Turks protested the forced political assimilation.
More than 80,000 Turks were expelled by Bulgaria in June 1989. Turkey promised to receive all those expelled, but at the end of August the borders were closed, as some 310,000 Turkish Bulgarians had crossed the border; Of these, 30,000 returned to Bulgaria. In November, the Ecoglasnost group in the National Assembly held the post-war largest demonstration, facing a nuclear power plant on an island in the Danube River, which is claimed to be an earthquake area, and at the same time a protest against the construction of a water reservoir in one of the country’s most important nature reserves.
Ca. 6,000 Pomak residents, representing the Islamic minority of about 300,000, demanded religious and cultural freedom in December.
The Central Committee of the Communist Party fired Zhivkov from the post of Secretary General – a post he had contested for 35 years – and he was replaced by Petur Mladenov, who was regarded as a supporter of liberalization of the regime. Mladenov also replaced Zhivkov as President of the Council of State.
The National Assembly lifted the ban on demonstrations facing the government and issued an amnesty for the inmates. Demonstrations demanding reform and free elections increased. The social unrest forced a change in the constitution and the introduction of an election law that allowed the holding of free elections.
The Union of Democratic Movements, composed of 16 opposition parties and the authorities agreed in March 1990 to elect a new constitutional assembly. At the July elections, the former communists from the Bulgarian Socialist Party won. In October, the Socialist Party was forced to join a coalition government, led by Yelio Yelev, a 1970’s dissident and leader of the Social Democratic Wing of the Union of Democratic Movements.
The new coalition government launched an economic reform program, advised by the IMF and the World Bank, and entered into “social peace agreements” with trade unions in force for a period of 200 days until the reforms came into force.
In July 1991, the new constitution was adopted, which included: a parliamentary system, the inviolability of property rights and freedom of expression were introduced. As new Prime Minister Filip Dimitrov was appointed, who had embarked on the Social Democrats and “the Greens”, p. the support of the right-wing opposition and of the Freedom and Human Rights Movement, which represented the Turkish minority.
With the participation of 75% of the population, Yelev was elected President of the Republic in January 1992. The leader of the transitional government and the initiators of the opening to the West, obtained 54.4% of the vote in the second round of elections, defeating Socialist Party candidate Velko Valkanov.