Bulgarian MPs passed at first reading on March 16 amendments to the country’s Judiciary Act, which reflect the changes in the constitution, adopted last year as part of the government’s judiciary reform initiative.
The amendments implement one of the key provisions of the constitutional changes, namely the separation of the Supreme Judiciary Council (SJC) into two separate colleges that will oversee the courts and the prosecutor’s office. The bill also requires all appointment and dismissal decision by the SCJ to use open voting and remove the option for SJC members to abstain from voting.
Decisions by the two colleges would require qualified majorities, with Justice Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva saying that such a provision would ensure that Parliament-appointed members of the SJC would not have the necessary numbers to make unilateral decisions concerning the judiciary.
The vote on March 16 saw 118 MPs in favour and 19 against, all of the latter coming from the opposition socialists. The socialists also opposed the constitutional changes last year and party leader Mihail Mikov said that the Judiciary Act amendments would be the “latest shot to hit the bar in the attempts to reform the judiciary”.
The second reading of the bill of amendments is expected next week, because the deadline to implement the constitutional changes in the Judiciary Act is March 22. A second bill of amendments implementing the framework of the constitutional changes is expected to be tabled next month.