Bulgarian Parliament concluded on September 26 the election of the country’s next Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) by appointing 11 members from the legislative quota. Over the previous two weeks, different branches of the judiciary elected the other 11 members of the council.
After brief introductions of each nominee, the MPs went straight to voting and eschewed any debates, deciding that they had nothing new to ask of the 17 candidates – not after the marathon 13-hour hearing held by Parliament’s legal affairs committee on September 11.
The final outcome confirmed the reports that surfaced in Bulgarian media over the past week, namely that ruling party GERB and the opposition reached an amicable settlement that distributed seats on the new SJC to all parliamentary-represented parties, save the two that make up the centre-right opposition Blue Coalition.
GERB saw five of its six nominees elected, with two apiece going to the opposition socialists and predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), while the nationalist Ataka and the Order, Law and Justice (OLJ) party saw one nominee each elected as well.
Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria declined to nominate anyone, saying that the process would be dominated by party politics rather than the qualities of the nominees (and were proven right in the end), while their partners in the Blue Coalition, the Union of Democratic Forces, failed to secure enough support for its one nominee.
During the voting, MRF and OLJ voted with GERB each time, while the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) supported the ruling party’s nominees and its own.
The final 11 members of the next SJC are: Karolina Mihailova (Varna District Court, nominated by GERB), Maria Kouzmanova (Sofia City Court, GERB), Svetla Petkova (Supreme Administrative Court, GERB), Sonya Naidenova (Sofia City Court, GERB), Yuliana Koleva (GERB MP), Nezabravka Stoeva (Blagoevgrad lawyer, BSP), Galina Karagyozova (Supreme Administrative Court, BSP), Vassil Petrov (Blagoevgrad lawyer, MRF), Magdalena Lazarova-Prodanova (deputy appellate prosecutor of Sofia, MRF), Yassen Todorov (investigative magistrate, Ataka), and Dimitar Ouzounov (Sandanski City Court, OLJ).
Joining them in the new SJC will be six members elected by judges – Kalin Kalpakchiev from Sofia Court of Appeals, Kamen Ivanov from Sofia Administrative Court, Yulia Kovacheva from the Supreme Administrative Court, Milka Itova from Sofia City Court, Daniela Kostova from Varna District Court and Galya Georgieva from the Plovdiv Court of Appeals – and four members elected by prosecutors – deputy chief prosecutors Kamen Sitnilski and Mihail Kozharev, as well as Roumen Boev from Plovdiv appellate prosecution and the head of the Blagoevgrad district prosecutor’s office Elka Atanassova. Investigative magistrates, who are entitled to electing one member of SJC, chose the deputy head of the National Investigative Service Roumen Georgiev.
The SJC is made of 25 members – the chief prosecutor (Boris Velchev) and the chairpersons of the Supreme Court of Cassation (Lazar Grouev) and Supreme Administrative Court (Georgi Kolev) are members of the SJC ex officio.
One of the first tasks of the new council will be starting the nominations process for the election of the next chief prosecutor; Boris Velchev’s term expires in February 2013.
(Bulgarian Parliament. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)