Bulgaria Constitutional Court rules caretaker minister’s appointment was unconstitutional

Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court ruled on October 27 that the appointment of Kiril Petkov as caretaker economy minister on May 10 2021 was unconstitutional because he held dual citizenship at that time.

Under Bulgaria’s constitution, a number of high offices of state – including members of the Council of Ministers – require the appointee to hold only Bulgarian citizenship.

Petkov filed a request to relinquish his Canadian citizenship on April 21 2021 and stated in his declaration, filed with the presidency on May 10, that he met the requirements to hold ministerial office, the Constitutional Court said.

However, the official notification by the Canadian embassy in Bucharest indicated that he lost his Canadian citizenship on August 20, the court ruling said.

Petkov previously argued that his request to relinquish Canadian citizenship was sufficient grounds to hold ministerial office and has asked to be allowed to present his case in front of the court.

The Constitutional Court denied his application on the grounds that the law explicitly stipulated the conditions when a person was allowed to be party to proceedings – such as presidential impeachment or removing the immunity of a sitting Constitutional Court judge – and Petkov’s case did not meet the criteria.

As part of the proceedings, the presidency argued that the case should be dismissed because Petkov no longer held ministerial office following the September 16 reshuffle of the caretaker Cabinet, thus rendering the issue irrelevant.

The presidency was alone in making that argument, with the court and several constitutional law experts asked to present their opinions disagreeing and pointing out that the president’s decree appointing the caretaker Cabinet was a non-regulatory act, meaning that a Constitutional Court ruling would have retroactive impact and the issue had to be decided on merit.

By ruling that Petkov’s appointment was unconstitutional, the court opens every ministerial order signed by Petkov to judicial appeal. One political party, the ultra-nationalist VMRO, has already said that it planned to do just that.

Reacting to the Constitutional Court ruling, President Roumen Radev, who appointed Petkov as caretaker minister, said that the court’s decisions were not subject to comments. He said that he did not know about Petkov holding dual citizenship and said that he would be “happy if Bulgaria had more ministers like Kiril Petkov.”

Petkov himself said that the court’s ruling was an affront to two million Bulgarian residing abroad and holding dual citizenship, in effect denying them full Bulgarian citizenship.

He said that he took full responsibility but held no remorse and “would not stop working for the motherland and risk everything in the name of a better future for our children.”

The court case was the result of a complaint filed by 55 MPs in August, making it one of the quickest rulings issued by Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court.

Petkov alluded that the decision was politically-motivated, saying that the ruling would impact his campaign – he is one of the founders of the We Continue the Change party with fellow former caretaker minister Assen Vassilev – as well as Radev’s re-election campaign. Bulgaria will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on November 14.

(Kiril Petkov photo: government.bg)

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