Bulgarian MPs vote to accept presidential veto on Judiciary Act amendments

Bulgarian Parliament voted on June 30 to revise the bill amending the country’s Judiciary Act, accepting the veto imposed on part of the bill by President Roumen Radev earlier this month.

Radev vetoed the provisions that split the National Investigative Service as a separate entity from the prosecutor’s office, arguing in his veto motives that in doing so, Parliament was effectively backsliding on commitments made by Bulgaria as part of its accession to the European Union.

The service had been a separate entity until 2009, when it was merged into the prosecutor’s office in order to streamline the pre-trial investigation process.

Radev also pointed out a procedural issue, namely that the provisions, tabled between readings of the Judiciary Act amendments, had been previously part of another bill that was rejected by Parliament at first reading.

As such, Parliament breached its own rules, which stipulate that any bill that has been voted down at first reading can only be tabled anew after changes have been made to its core provisions and no sooner than three months after its rejection.

The motion to accept the veto was backed by We Continue the Change-Democratic Bulgaria coalition and the Bulgarian Socialist Party, which opposed the amendments at second reading, but also the GERB-UDF coalition and Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF), whose MPs voted in favour of the bill at second reading.

In the debate preceding the vote on June 30, pro-Russian Vuzrazhdane, which tabled the provisions vetoed by Radev, was the only party to defend the bill as passed at second reading.

A number of MPs speaking during the debate attributed GERB-UDF and MRF’s switching of sides to the fact that since the bill’s passing, the country’s Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) dismissed Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev.

Geshev had clashed recently with the head of the National Investigative Service, Borislav Sarafov, who was ex officio deputy prosecutor-general and has since been appointed acting prosecutor-general by the prosecutors bench of the SJC.

The vote in Parliament was the second time this year that MPs accepted Radev’s veto, but only the fourth time they did so since Radev took office in January 2017.

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. Parliament may overturn the President’s veto through a simple majority vote or accept the veto and review the vetoed clauses.

Radev has vetoed 31 bills in his time as head of state and his veto was overturned on all but five occasions – four times that the veto was accepted by MPs and one instance where the government coalition at the time failed to muster the support needed to overturn it.

(Bulgarian National Assembly building. Photo: parliament.bg)

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