Bulgaria’s President asks Constitutional Court to rule on special prosecutor role

Bulgarian President Roumen Radev has asked the Constitutional Court to overturn amendments to the country’s Penal Procedure Code, which envision the appointment of a special prosecutor with the authority to investigate the top ranks of the prosecutor’s office, his office said on February 24.

In his court complaint, he said that the new position would breach several key constitutional principles, including the independence of the prosecutor’s office within the judiciary and the principle that all are equal under law.

The president’s case pursued the same lines of argument that prompted Radev to veto the amendments bill earlier this month, which Parliament overturned of February 17.

In his veto motives, Radev also said that the changes did not “offer a just and sustainable solution to the problem of lacking effective investigation of the Prosecutor-General or Deputy Prosecutor-General.”

The Constitutional Court will now have to decide whether Radev’s challenge is admissible and, if so, appoint a rapporteur judge for the case. Given the usual length of Constitutional Court cases, a final ruling would be expected in the second half of next year.

Bulgaria’s constitution grants the head of state a limited power of veto, through enabling the President to return legislation to the National Assembly for further discussion. The National Assembly may overturn the President’s veto through a simple majority vote or accept the veto and review the vetoed clauses.

Since taking office in January 2017, Radev made liberal use of this power, vetoing 28 bills, with Parliament overturning the veto on all but three occasions – two cases when the provisions in question were withdrawn and one instance where the government coalition failed to muster the support needed to overturn the veto.

On several occasions, Radev has followed through with a Constitutional Court challenge, where he has been more successful in blocking legislation.

(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

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