Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court has rejected an appeal against the stance of the Central Election Commission (CEC) that Delyan Peevski is eligible to stand in the country’s May 2019 European Parliament elections.
An NGO called Boets (“fighter”) had approached the CEC with the argument that Peevski, the controversial figure who is second on the European Parliament candidate list of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), was disqualified because he did not meet the criteria of the Electoral Code regarding residence.
The NGO cited the Bulgarian Electoral Code’s Article 351 (1), which says: “The right to be elected Member of the European Parliament for the Republic of Bulgaria shall vest in the Bulgarian nationals who have attained the age of 21 years by polling day, are not interdicted, do not serve a custodial sentence, have a permanent address in the Republic of Bulgaria, and have resided in the Republic of Bulgaria or in another Member State of the European Union at least during the last six months”.
Peevski, who has been elected to a succession of parliaments in Bulgaria but who has rarely been seen in the National Assembly since taking the oath in the current Parliament in 2017, has been alleged in recent media reports to be spending most of his time in Dubai, while flight records also showed that he frequently had travelled to Vienna.
Peevski is a highly controversial figure, with a number of business interests, including media ownerships. His short-lived appointment in 2013 as head of the State Agency for National Security triggered months of widely-supported public protests against the “Oresharski” government of the time.
Boets alleged that there was sufficient evidence that Peevski actually was living in Dubai.
The CEC responded that the Chief Directorate of Civil Registration and Administrative Services had found that all the MRF candidate MEPs complied with the law on eligibility for candidacy, as all had registered addresses in Bulgaria.
Boets took the matter to the Supreme Administrative Court, which – in a decision that is final and not subject to appeal – ruled on May 8 that eligibility under Article 351 is established by checking address registration in Bulgaria or another EU country.
The court earlier rejected a request by counsel for Boets to examine the records of Border Police, Sofia Airport, other institutions and the UAE Foreign Ministry to establish where Peevski had been in the past six months.
Peevski’s media, identifying him as the publisher of Telegraf Media, alleged that behind the attempt to block him from the European Parliament elections was Tsvetan Vassilev, describing Boets as “close” to Vassilev, the majority shareholder in Corporate Commercial Bank. Vassilev is in Serbia, sought by Bulgaria to face serious criminal charges in connection to the collapse of CCB, formerly Bulgaria’s fourth-largest lender by volume, in June 2014. Peevski and Vassilev formerly were close associates but became estranged. In relation to the charges against him arising from the CCB affair, Vassilev denies wrongdoing.
In the May 2014 European Parliament elections in Bulgaria, Peevski also was a candidate. He was one of four MRF candidates elected to the European Parliament, but declined to take up his seat.