Associated Press
A man identified as Oktai Enimehmedov, 25, points a gun at Ahmed Dogan, leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, during a speech in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Saturday. The gun would not fire.

SOFIA, Bulgaria — The leader of Bulgaria's opposition Movement for Rights and Freedoms, Ahmed Dogan, gave up the chairmanship of his party after being threatened on stage with a gun earlier Saturday.

Dogan's deputy, Lyutvi Mestan, was elected by the MRF convention as the new party leader. Dogan was proclaimed honorary chairman for life, which gives him leadership powers.

Dogan had already been expected to resign his post and lend his support to his deputy, prior to being attacked during his speech at his party's convention in Sofia by a man carrying a gas pistol.

After taking aim, the 25-year-old ethnic Turk was prevented from firing his weapon after he was tackled by party members. The assailant, who had a prior criminal record, was further armed with two knives.

Dogan was not injured. The attacker, whose motive was unclear, was detained by police.

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"The true reason for the assault is the language of hatred, of confrontation and the aggression against the (MRF) in the Bulgarian society," Mestan said in a statement.

The liberal MRF party, which mainly represents the Turkish minority in Bulgaria, had called the convention to elect new leadership. Dogan, 58, has led the party since founding it in 1990.

After taking part in the governing coalition, the party switched to the opposition following the 2009 elections, which were won by the conservative Gerb party of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.

The ruling Gerb party condemned the assassination attempt.