Bulgarian MPs overrule President’s veto on Military Intelligence Act amendments
Bulgaria’s National Assembly returned from summer recess to familiar business, overturning President Roumen Radev’s veto on amendments to the Military Intelligence Act that would allow civilians to be appointed as head of the service.
This is the 19th time that Radev exercised his veto power since taking office in January 2017, and the fifth since late May. Parliament has overruled the veto in all but one case, when the provision in question was withdrawn.
On September 5, the latest motion to overturn the veto passed by 134 votes to 56, with six abstentions, following a debate in which a familiar scenario played out – the opposition socialists backing Radev, who was elected on the party’s ticket in 2016, while MPs from the government coalition roundly dismissed the concerns raised by the president.
This time there was the added wrinkle, however, that Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party, the senior partner in the ruling coalition, had previously endorsed the socialist proposal in 2015 that changed the law to say that post of head of military intelligence should be held by an officer of senior rank whose commission is active.
In his veto motives, Radev too pointed out that “the National Assembly decisively backed, at that time, the requirement that the head of Military Intelligence should be part of the active military. That rule is in line with the place and importance that the service has for the Bulgarian armed forces, which is why I cannot agree to the retreat carried out by the bill.”
Those amendments were vetoed by then-President Rossen Plevneliev, but the veto was overturned with votes from GERB MPs.
Socialist MPs repeatedly brought up that fact during the debate, who argued that GERB’s support for the current status quo in 2015 and its intention to change the law back was prompted by desire to back a specific candidates for the job, rather than legal principles.