Bulgarian President Roumen Radev said on November 7 that he would not sign the decree appointing Ivan Geshev as the country’s next prosecutor-general, exercising his constitutional prerogative to ask the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) to reconsider its choice.
In a brief televised statement, Radev said that he had expected “a real competition between candidates, not a formal execution of procedures” and noted that “the hallmark of a democratic state is the presence of an alternative.”
Geshev, who was the only candidate nominated for the job, was elected by the SJC on October 24, by 20 votes to four, at a marathon meeting overshadowed by protests against Geshev’s appointment that blocked streets in the country’s capital city Sofia.
Radev said that even though he was not required to give his reasons for signing the appointment decree or sending it back to the SJC, he wanted to do so because the process of appointing the prosecutor-general should “dispel any doubts whether the nominee will defend public interest, the rights of citizens and the rule of law.”
Radev only alluded to the controversy stirred by Geshev’s nomination and voiced no criticism of Geshev himself, focusing instead on the government’s indirect support for Geshev – as shown first by the justice minister not exercising the right to nominate a second candidate (Geshev was nominated by members of the SJC) and then by statements in support of Geshev’s nomination by state institutions, including the Interior Ministry.
“This way, in breach of the law, the massive institutional support was given more weight than the opinion of public organisations. The appointment of the prosecutor-general is an act of high public importance and the process should create trust in the society, not cause doubts,” Radev said.
Should the SJC confirm its initial appointment in a second vote, Radev would not have constitutional right to send the pick back to the council again, but he could attempt to delay the process by seeking clarification from the Constitutional Court.
Commenting on Radev’s statement, Geshev told daily 24 Chasa that he was grateful that the president announced his decision in a “reasonable” time frame and said that the appointment process was continuing.
The seven-year term of current prosecutor-general Sotir Tsatsarov ends in January 2020.
(Top photo: Ivan Geshev)