Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court overcomes logjam

Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court was back in session after Grozdan Iliev took his oath of office on February 28, ending an institutional logjam dating back to November 2012.

Iliev was elected to take the final vacant seat by Parliament on February 22, at the third attempt to fill the vacancy. The vote, initially scheduled for March 6, was brought fourth so that the current legislature can make the appointment before it is dissolved, likely as early as next week.

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.

Its judges are replaced four at a time every three years; in 2012, those were two judges appointed by Parliament, one by the President and one by the high courts. The other three judges to take office in November are former chief prosecutor Boris Velchev, former deputy speaker of Parliament Anastas Anastassov and Supreme Administrative court judge Georgi Angelov.

The vacancy remained unfilled for months after judge Veneta Markovska was prevented from taking her oath by President Rossen Plevneliev walking out during the ceremony. Markovska had become the target of allegations of conflict of interest and corruption, but refused to step down.

A second attempt to fill the vacancy failed after the sole nominee, prosecutor Galya Gougousheva, became embroiled in a very public row concerning her family’s finances, prompting her to withdraw even before the matter was brought to a vote in Parliament.

With Iliev taking the final seat, the court is expected to meet in the near future to elect a chairperson, the first order of business before it can resume normal operations.

The court has a backlog of several cases that it will have to examine, including challenges from MPs to the Asset Forfeiture Act and the Value-Added Tax Act, as well a challenge brought by ombudsman Konstantin Penchev against amendments to the Foreigners Act that ban foreign nationals from travelling out of Bulgaria if they have debts of more than 5000 leva.

(Photo: Jason Morisson/sxc.hu)



Alex Bivol

Alex Bivol is the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe.