Three people have been put forth as Bulgaria’s next prosecutor-general before the deadline for nominations expired, amid lingering doubts about the transparency of the election.
Deputy prosecutor-general Galina Toneva and Borislav Sarafov, head of the appellate prosecution at the specialised criminal court (set up by Bulgaria earlier this yearto deal with high-profile cases), have joined Sotir Tsatsarov, nominated earlier this month and seen as the favourite for the job.
Tsatsarov, who is the head of the Plovdiv Regional Court, is also seen as the nominee backed by Bulgaria’s ruling party, GERB. Reinforcing such perceptions, Tsatsarov has been praised by Interior Minister Tsvetanov Tsvetanov – whose critics often accuse him of attempting to influence appointments in the judiciary by promoting nominees that would be more sympathetic to the work of police investigators and prosecutors, resulting in more convictions, the Achilles’ heel of Bulgaria’s efforts to fight corruption and organised crime.
Reports in Bulgarian media also describe Plovdiv Regional Court as the go-to destination for police requests for surveillance taps, claiming that it has a track record of approving such requests with fewer qualms than other courts.
Such speculation might have been the domain of conspiracy theorists if the Supreme Judicial Council, which elects the prosecutor-general, had not decided to change election rules earlier this month, stipulating that the votes on the nominees should be carried out in the order that the nominations are made. Shortly after that decision, Tsatsarov’s name was the first thrown into the ring.
Earlier this week, in a letter to Justice Minister Diana Kovacheva, who chairs the SJC without being a member of the council, Tsatsarov asked for the rules to be changed in order to avoid any doubts about the election.
A similar suggestion came from Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, who asked Kovacheva to hold a “draw” to establish the order of the vote. The suggestion came during the Cabinet meeting on November 21, according to minutes published on November 23.
In addition to the speculation surrounding Tsatsarov’s work as a judge, he has had other distractions – earlier this week, a report claimed that his wife bought property in 2008 in a deal where the price registered by notary was significantly lower than the real price paid.
Tsatsarov has denied any wrongdoing, saying that the lower price was used at the request of the seller, but that he and his wife paid the full amount of taxes due for the real price of the transaction.(Justice Palace in Sofia. Photo: Klearchos Kapoutsis/flickr.com)