Bulgarian Parliament passes controversial anti-corruption law

Bulgarian MPs adopted on December 20 a new law that will set up a single body to oversee the fight against corruption, but critics of the bill say that its provisions will have the opposite effect.

The law passed with votes from the two partners in the ruling coalition, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB and the United Patriots group of nationalist parties, opposed by the opposition socialists and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF).

The new law envisions the merger of several institutions currently tasked with fighting corruption, including a department in the State Agency for National Security, the government’s commission on fighting corruption and the asset forfeiture commission.

Members of the new body would be elected by Parliament for a term of six years. The socialists, who tabled their own version of the bill that was rejected wholesale by the ruling coalition, had proposed that appointments be made by the president, arguing that the head of state would be equally distant from all political parties.

(Under Bulgarian constitution, the president cannot be a member of any party, but Bulgaria’s post-communist history has shown that to be a fiction, as none of the country’s five presidents elected since 1989 has been able to convincingly sever all ties to the parties on whose tickets they were elected. President Roumen Radev, elected last year on the socialist ticket, has been no different.)

One of the most controversial provisions of the new law is that it does not allow any anonymous corruption tip-offs – a whistleblower would have to provide their full name, national ID number and contact information, raising concerns that they could be targeted with slander proceedings in retaliation if the investigation against an official finds no proof of wrongdoing.

Additionally, the law would give the new anti-corruption body the right to authorise wire-tapping officials, even though it has no investigative powers, meaning that the results of such special surveillance would not be admissible in court. At most, the body would be able to forward its evidence to the prosecutor’s office, which would have to obtain its own wire-tapping warrants.

This could lead to the body being used as a tool to stifle political dissent and even target members of the media, opponents of the law have claimed.

President Radev has already vowed to veto the bill, but the government coalition has the numbers in Parliament to overturn the veto.

(Photo: (c) Clive Leviev-Sawyer)



The Sofia Globe staff

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