On the deadline day for Constitutional Court nominations, Bulgaria’s centre-right party Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) officially submitted the name of prosecutor Galya Gougousheva for the one vacant seat – but had to do it in a roundabout way, relying on independent MPs rather than its own members of Parliament.
The saga of the “judge that never was”, followed by the shorter (but no less dramatic) episode of the “nominee that never was”, now appears to have come to an end. Pending a hearing in Parliament’s legal affairs committee and a vote by Parliament, Gougousheva’s appointment would finally give the Constitutional court a full complement of 12 judges, allowing it to resume operations without any shadow of doubt about the legitimacy of its decisions.
The seat remained vacant after earlier this month, Veneta Markovska was denied her oath ceremony by President Rossen Plevneliev (as reported by The Sofia Globe here). Afterwards, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said his party would back any nomination by UDF for the court, only for UDF’s nominee, former president Petar Stoyanov, to decline the nomination on November 23, citing international commitments.
Meanwhile, a row had erupted between UDF’s leadership and the party’s MPs – Emil Kabaivanov was elected party leader on a platform of breaking all ties with the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria (DSB) of former prime minister (and former UDF leader) Ivan Kostov. The party’s current MPs, including the former leader whom Kabaivanov defeated, Martin Dimitrov, remain in favour of continuing the electoral and parliamentary alliance with DSB, the Blue Coalition.
After the ejection of three UDF MPs from the party (reported in detail here), the other party MPs said that they would not table any Constitutional Court nomination on behalf of UDF – it was tabled instead by three independent MPs, elected on the ticket of ultra-nationalist Ataka, who have since left the party.
The trio said that they registered a new political group that would co-operate with UDF on policy and legislative issues. Vanyo Sharkov, one of the UDF MPs excluded from the party, said that the trio was looking to win re-election by being included in UDF’s party list at next year’s parliamentary elections.
Gougousheva, who is now deputy head of the appellate prosecution in the specialised criminal court (set up by Bulgaria earlier this year to deal with high-profile cases), has not been linked to any controversy – but neither was Markovska before her nomination brought to light earlier accusations of corruption and abuse of power.
Gougousheva’s name, however, was mentioned in one report earlier this year, after she submitted her property declaration that listed receiving an apartment as a donation from a company owned by her son.
Her hearing in Parliament’s legal affairs committee is scheduled for December 12, with the confirmation vote in Parliament set for December 19.
Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court has 12 judges, serving nine-year terms – four are appointed by the President, four are elected by Parliament and the other four are elected by judges from Bulgaria’s two high courts, the Supreme Administrative Court and the Supreme Court of Cassation.
Three judges joined the court on November 15: SAC judge Georgi Angelov (elected by high court judges), former chief prosecutor Boris Velchev (appointed by President Rossen Plevneliev) and former Deputy Parliament Speaker Anastas Anastassov (elected by Parliament).
(Photo: Jaime Pérez)