Bulgaria’s newly-elected Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) held its first official meeting on October 3, electing the council representative and a five-member committee that will draft the council’s procedural rules for the duration of the five-year term.
Sonya Naidenova, formerly a judge in Sofia City Court, elected by Parliament and nominated by ruling party GERB, was elected the council’s representative and primary spokesperson. Although the Justice Minister formally chairs the SJC, the minister is not required to attend all meetings and is not a member of the council.
Naidenova was elected with 17 votes in favour and eight against, a move that some local observers described as the first clash of rival camps in the new SJC. Naidenova is said to belong to the larger camp willing to be more accommodating to the demands of the Government.
The official ceremony was attended by Bulgarian President Rossen Pleveneliev, Justice Minister Diana Kovacheva and Parliament Speaker Tsetska Tsacheva, but not Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov – two of the most outspoken critics of Bulgaria’s judiciary (usually in the context that judges too often acquit criminals caught by police; Borissov and Tsvetanov are both former high-ranking police officials).
In his welcoming address, Plevneliev called on the new council members to be guided by their sense of justice, not their political ties.
“The recipe for success is simple – results benefitting society and results benefitting statecraft, because democracy in Bulgaria is a function of your work and the value system that you espouse forms the nation’s value system,” he said.
The new council faces an uphill struggle of improving public perception of the institution, marred by endless corruption rows that dogged its predecessor – including relatives of former council members claiming underprivileged status and receiving prime real estate for prices well below market valuations, as well as claims that choice appointments were brokered by shady individuals in exchange for bribes. The previous council also repeatedly came under fire for the non-transparent way in which it handled appointments and for cracking down on judges critical of its work.
One of the key early tasks of the new council will be to start the process for electing Bulgaria’s next chief prosecutor – incumbent Boris Velchev’s term expires in February 2013.
(Photo: Jason Morisson/sxc.hu)