Bulgaria’s Parliament voted on February 22 to appoint Grozdan Iliev to the Constitutional Court, as well as fill the three vacant seats on the asset forfeiture commission.
The votes on all appointments had to be brought forth because the current legislature could be devolved as early as next week, given the statements of Bulgaria’s parliamentary-represented parties that they would refuse a mandate from President Rossen Plevneliev to form a government.
If three attempts to form a government fail, and all indications are that this is set to happen, Plevneliev is required by constitution to devolve Parliament and name a caretaker cabinet until snap elections are held.
Iliev, the deputy chairperson of the Supreme Court of Cassation who was nominated by acting Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s party, GERB, was appointed with 117 MPs from GERB voting in favour. The two largest opposition parties, the socialists and the predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), did not participate in the vote.
Iliev is expected to take his oath of office in the near future, ending a five-month logjam that blocked the Constitutional Court from performing its duties. If Parliament failed to make the appointment before being devolved, the appointment procedure would have been postponed until after the snap elections, raising questions about the court’s ability to render rulings if any constitutional challenge related to the elections is brought up and, indeed, questions about the legality of any such rulings.
MPs also voted to appoint three members of the asset forfeiture commission – Antoaneta Tsonkova (nominated by GERB), Ivo Ivanov and Stoyanka Nikolakova (nominated by the MRF and the socialists, respectively).
Parliament has to appoint three of the five members (including the deputy chairperson) and the deadline for appointments was February 19, but the MPs have missed it as parliamentary debates have been dominated by other issues – from public protests sparked by high electricity prices to the proposed Cabinet reshuffle and, most recently, Borissov’s resignation on February 20.
Last month, Borissov appointed former Deputy Justice Minister Plamen Dimitrov as chairperson of the asset forfeiture commission, but he cannot take office until the commission is fully staffed.
The European Union, which continues to monitor Bulgaria’s progress in judiciary reform and the fight against corruption, has long called for stronger efforts to seize assets acquired as a result of criminal activity. Last year, Parliament passed the Asset Forfeiture Act, which envisions the creation of the commission with further-reaching powers than that of its predecessor.
(Bulgarian Parliament. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)